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Restoration of Urban Biodiversity a big picture look at some key issues. Colin D Meurk 18 th & 20 th May, 2004. What is Biodiversity?. Summation of global ecosystem, species, and gene information (sum of all the regional diversity)

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Restoration of Urban Biodiversity a big picture look at some key issues

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Restoration of Urban Biodiversitya big picture look at some key issues

Colin D Meurk

18th & 20th May, 2004

What is Biodiversity?

  • Summation of global ecosystem, species, and gene information (sum of all the regional diversity)

  • Distinct from local species richness - total number of species in an area

  • Misconception that piling more (exotic) spp into an area increases biodiversity

  • NZ has huge numbers of introduced spp; net increase of 58 vertebrates, but net decline of indigenous spp (-53). Global biodiversity is thus reduced by 53 - not increased by 58!

  • NZ has c. 30 000 exotic plant spp, so spp richness is now c. 32 500, but global biodiversity has declined through massive reduction in gene pools & functional ecosystems – not increased by 30 000!

Extinction is forever!% of endemic group that is:extinct, threatened or endangered

  • 100% NZ frogs

  • 100% tuatara

  • 100% moaand overall …

  • 100% kiwi

  • 100% aptornis29% NZ breeding seabirds

  • 100% kakapo

  • 66% kea & kaka56% NZ breeding non-marine birds

  • 66% NZ wrens

  • 33% whiteheadsProtection of all of these is our duty!

  • 100% piopio

  • 100% wattlebirds

  • 100% short-tailed batsRef: Kerry-Jane Wilson 2004

Why Urban?

  • Most people live in urban environments (creates both risks & resources)

  • Cities are at environmental cross-roads

  • Thus have diverse ecosystems & spp

  • These lowland biota are at risk & under-protected

  • Few citizens see our nature - in remote mountains, rainforests & offshore islands

  • Some positive indicators in cities/towns

  • Conservation of nature depends on both ecological & socio-cultural factors

    – it won’t happen if there is not the will

  • There must be a critical ecological, visual & ideological mass of nature so that it is sustainable thru being equated with society’s sense of its place.

Visibilityof nature

Sustainable Management & Useof natural resources

Identificationwith regional biodiversity & landscape

Protectivenesstowards natural values

Landscape & Ecological Sustainability & Integrity Feedback System

Familiaritywith nature

Learningfrom natural processes

Enculturationof natural values

Quality of Lifedefinition

We have the need for a major Urban Biodiversity Restoration effort

  • Biodiversity crisis

  • Cultural imperatives (both Maori & Kiwi)

  • Critical location

  • Do we have the ecological technology?

What can we do?

  • Protect the primary habitats

    • More urban biodiversity & habitats than we think

    • More expensive to restore than we think

  • Nurse the remnants back to health – at various levels & scales

    • A single bush is a habitat!

    • Mainland islands the Rolls Royce version

  • Halt deliberate & natural spread of weeds & pests!

  • Restoration & Regeneration

    • Remember the diversity is in the small spp (<20% of native flora are large trees, shrubs & tussocks) and the myriad interactions

  • Raise proportion of native plants in dominant locations

  • Nurture the home gardener - Gardens, footpath cracks, walls & lawns

  • Integrate sanctuaries, corridors, stepping stones & the matrix – and people!

How/Where do we do it?

  • Get the management of remnants & the investment in planting right!

  • Forest planting (defines the city & food value)

  • Shrubland systems (a special NZ feature)

  • Wetland restoration (tall stuff is easy)

  • Coastal dune & estuarine restoration

  • Grasslands (battling weed successions)

  • Riparian & instream habitats (battling perceptions)

  • New surrogate habitats (urban mimics of nature)

  • Facilitate spatial dynamics (the landscape level)

  • Celebrate & redirect the home gardener’s energy & innovation (cf bird breeders)

Forests & Shrublandsinnovative ways of making urban forests pay

  • G Hall LINKNZ 15.4.03; Douglas fir - harvest 20% at yr 20, natives introduced at yr 20, then 20% stems > 30 cm harvested, leaving 12 stems/ha

Bellbird observation maps

The following maps display bellbird sightings that members of the public have sent in to this website. The observation website has been operational since September 2002, but there are also some records from earlier observations (starting November 2001). These maps include observations up to January 2004. Please continue to send in your native bird sightings through our observation form, and we will update these maps periodically. These maps were prepared by the Research & Policy Development Unit of Christchurch City Council.

These maps are also available at higher resolution as pdf documents. These downloads include additional maps, including other native bird species.Download higher resolution versions of the Canterbury maps   1MBDownload higher resolution versions of the Christchurch maps   1.57MB

Bellbird Sightings in Christchurch by Members of the Public, November 2001 - January 2004

Reports of bellbirds by the public in Christchurch between 2001-2004

Wetlands & Riparian Habitats

Key Message: Plant at stream edges, tall & dense (during low water/summer time) – but provide windows for access & views

Coastal Estuaries

Good dune, bad dune

Grasslands are tricky in a forest climate!

Combat exotic grasses with differential grazing …

Handweeding & close inspection – or moaing

Give in to the wood climate

Stressing with coarse soil or managed drought

Urban Surrogates of Threatened Nature

Lawns are surrogate interdune turfs

Creative Native Gardens

Towards landscape integrity & legibilitysocial cohesion & a maturing culture

Power of plants & their signals

Entrances, Portals & Avenues are crucial

It took over a millennium in Europe to fit in with the land- be patient!

We need to grow From this

To this

Comfortable, mature & secure in our history, work, art & play

Take home messages

  • Biodiversity a global concept – a crisis in NZ

  • Urban is the focus – identity, cultural imperative

  • Need critical mass of nature – visually, culturally, & ideologically

  • Protect primary habitats – the benchmarks

  • Halt deliberate & natural spread of pests

  • Restore & regenerate (80% plants-small stuff)

  • Urban woodland defines the city & food value

  • Need visual dominance of native spp.

  • Optimum spatial configuration of forest patches

  • It’s for the birds

For messages

  • Safety – need some ecologists to help with the solutions

  • Plant stream edges dense + windows

  • Estuaries – buffers, excavation & regen.

  • Dunes losing their natural character

  • Grasses fun but tricky in forest climates -

  • …grazing, weeding, stressing, go to shrubs

  • Role of home gardener – creative natives

  • Urban surrogates of threatened habitats/spp

  • Maturing the culture & the landscape - legibility


  • Coastal Dune Vegetation Network (CDVN website )

  • (includes plant selection & propagation tools, soil key, streamside planting guides)

  • Establishing shelter in Canterbury with Nature Conservation in mind (ECan & Isaac Centre for Nature Conservation)

  • Protecting & Restoring our natural heritage – a practical guide (Davis & Meurk for DoC 2001)

  • QEII handbook (in press)

  • The Native Garden (Gabites & Lucas 1998)

  • Tane’s Tree Trust

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