As the silly season is well upon us, we’re excited to write one last newsletter for 2018.
For those of you who haven’t already seen, the Farming & Nature Conservation (F&NC) project has it’s very own, brand-new website. Here you can find all the details of our project, including our past and current students, mātauranga Māori and collaborative parties. We also have a page for resources, where you can find a copy of, or link to, all of our reports, scientific papers, posters etc.
In 2019 we will be further developing this set of resources with the help of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) and the Tindall Foundation. We’ll pool all of the biodiversity resources available to famers from multiple sources into one independent website, which can become a one-stop-shop for advice and referrals. Here we plan to add our own videos and stories about what biodiversity means to farmers, what benefits it can provide to the farm as a business, as well as how on-farm actions can contribute to biodiversity conservation locally and nationally.
Our second field season is in full flight, with vegetation recce plots well underway, bird counts just getting started and the first tea bags in the ground.
Josh Foster and Tim Logan have been powering through the vegetation recce plots on our Canterbury and Kaipara farms. Josh is joining the F&NC team next year as a Master of Forestry Science student, studying the change in vegetation on sheep and beef farms over time, and Tim has just finished his Bachelor of Science at the University of Canterbury
Together they’re intensively sampling woody tree and shrub species in 10x10m or 5x5m plots respectively. When these are repeated throughout the native vegetation on our farms, they give a detailed measure of woody plant biodiversity on that piece of land.
We would have loved to include undergrowth species, such as herbs, in the study as well but unfortunately these take a long time to accurately identify and we just couldn’t fit them in!
Josh and Tim are also quantifying the stored carbon in the recce plots by measuring both the living and dead plant matter. This should give us, and our farmers, an idea of how much carbon is being stored in different vegetation types.
Stacey has been up in Auckland this week, having a refresher course in five-minute bird counts and helping Chloé bury tea bags on our Kaipara farm.
For our whānau who have been with us from the start, you will remember that our Dutch intern, Anoek Brugman, completed bird counts on all our farms last year. As with most science, one round of sampling just isn’t enough! We want to repeat the bird counts again this year to be sure those species are consistently present on the farms.
Stacey will be doing bird counts in the different patches of vegetation around the farms, so we can see which bird species prefer which type of vegetation. Each plant species provides a different “ecosystem service” depending on where it is in the landscape, so we can use the results of this survey to better inform ecological restoration on farms.
We are also re-doing our tea bag experiment from last year. Firstly, to get a larger set of data, and secondly because the stock ruined a few of our plots last year!
Weighing tea bags, burying them for three months, then re-weighing them allows us to measure how much carbon (tea) is being degraded by that particular soil type. When we repeat this experiment in soil under native forest, pasture, mānuka etc. we can show how different vegetation affects soil chemistry.
Spreading our wings
In the last two months we have been busy sharing our project with the wider community. Brad, Febyana and Jennifer attended the New Zealand Ecological Society conference, where they each gave a talk on our research and together presented a poster. We also had Fiona Greig from BLNZ kindly present a poster from us at the New Zealand Nutrition Society conference, where they had a big emphasis on knowing what impact their food has on the environment.
Last but certainly not least, we are thrilled to have received funding from Auckland University of Technology for our new Living Laboratory project. This will be aligned with F&NC and will look at how to create old-growth forest patches on farms as fast as possible. Being a long-term experiment, we’ll need all the help we can get, so we’re pleased to be able to welcome the Policy Observatory at AUT, Dr. David Hall and Dr. Leilani Walker to our agroecology whānau.
It seems like 2019 has some pretty exciting things in store for us, but for now we wish you all a long and relaxing holiday, and we look forward to working with you again in the new year.
Meri Kirihimete me te Hape Nū la,
The Farming & Nature Conservation team:
Hannah Buckley, David Norton, Brad Case, Margaret Stanley, Jennifer Pannell, Valance Smith, Estelle Dominati, Margaret Brown, Fleur Maseyk, Stacey Bryan and Chloé Mathieu