Assessing and protecting biodiversity

Pohutukawa flowers close-up, Cavalli Islands< New Zealand


New Zealand’s native plants, animals and ecosystems are internationally unique. Millions of years of isolation from other land masses resulted in the evolution of a unique and vulnerable biota.  After the extinction of dinosaurs New Zealand did not follow the rest of the world into the “Age of Mammals”.  Instead it entered the “Age of Birds”.  Many bird species lost the power of flight and in the absence of terrestrial mammals fed on the ground.  There were only three terrestrial mammals at the time of human settlement approximately 730 years ago. These mammals were three species of bats, two of which also evolved to feed extensively on the ground.  These ground based habits made New Zealand birds and the bats highly vulnerable to human hunting and then introduced mammalian predators.

Before human arrival there was a very high level of endemism with 70% of land and freshwater birds and 85% of flowering plant species being endemic. Since human settlement there have been many species extinctions.  This includes all species of ratite moa.  About 46% of bird species present before human arrival have become extinct.  Today New Zealand has one of the highest rates of threatened species in the world.

Many New Zealand native ecosystems have been seriously reduced in extent and quality. Before human arrival about 78% of New Zealand was forested.  Today only 23% is forested with much of that being in steep mountainous country.  Only 10% of the pre-human extent of wetlands remains.  Introduced plant and animal species have adversely affected many ecosystems.  Few intact native ecosystems remain in coastal and lowland environments, except for some offshore islands and the most remote parts of mainland New Zealand.  More information can be found here.


Ecological monitoring in subtropical lowland forest, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Ecological monitoring in subtropical lowland forest

While New Zealand marine environments are relatively healthy by international standards, in 1997 the Ministry for Environment estimated that approximately 30% were disturbed by human activities. Large scale fishing activities remove large numbers of organisms, destroy marine habitats and disrupt marine food chains/webs.  Introduced species are also a threat.

In New Zealand biodiversity protection actions range from the creation legally protected areas, to the development of restrictions and incentives for protecting biodiversity on private land, to the control/ eradication of one or more pest plant and animal species, to a variety of habitat protection/ enhancement activities. Pacific Eco-Logic has primarily been involved in the associated research, investigations and documentation/communication.

Vicky under a large puriri tree leaning across a walking track, Pipiroa Scenic Reserve, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Project examples

Indigenous Biodiversity Guidance Note for the Quality Planning website 

Pacific Eco-Logic led this project and wrote most of the text. It includes a detailed evaluation of different tools that agencies can use to promote biodiversity protection and restoration on private lands.

Inventory of freshwater biodiversity for the East Coast – Hawke’s Bay Conservancy of the Department of Conservation:

This project collated information from a wide variety of sources (including Government archives) and identified priorities for action.

Subtidal biodiversity survey Wairarapa

This was the first subtidal biodiversity survey for the eastern Wairarapa coast. There were many logistical challenges associated with this project as this coast is frequently subject to large swells, strong winds and poor water clarity.  Quantitative and qualitative data was collected at eight locations ranging from Cape Palliser to Riversdale Beach.

Baseline terrestrial and freshwater ecological assessment Wairau –Awatere section of Marlborough District

This project collated information from a variety of sources including early New Zealand Wildlife Services surveys. A freshwater classification was developed and applied to the aquatic environments of the district.


Please see the “Assessing and protecting biodiversity” heading in the Publications page.