We hope everyone’s new years are off to a great start. The Farming & Nature Conservation team have been busy with field work over the past two months, making a good dent in the “to-do” list and collecting loads of data about biodiversity and its functions on our three study farms
In early January Hannah and Margaret went for the first visit to our third and smallest farm in Kaipara. This farm is a great demonstration of how even smaller patches of land can be home to extensive native biodiversity; with two patches of old growth forest as well as a couple of small stands of mānuka. Since this first visit we have had a few field trips up to Kaipara with a range of students from Auckland University of Technology. Cao Songling, a PhD candidate from China, spent an entire day in January burying tea bags in different habitat types around the farm. Far from a waste of good tea, when he digs these up in three months’ time he’ll be able to compare the soil decomposition rates under the different vegetation types.
The first half of February was dedicated to our farm in the Ruapehu district. Stacey and Sophie Williams, an ecologist from Wellington, spent two weeks mapping the native vegetation across nearly 1500ha. They were joined for a week by a group from AUT who set up a trial “Tier 1” vegetation plot. These plots are modelled off the Department of Conservation Tier 1 protocols, that are used to monitor native vegetation throughout the country on a long-term basis. We are investigating how the Tier 1 plot framework could be used to monitor native biodiversity and function in the different native habitat types across our study farms. The aim is to establish a practical method for surveying biodiversity and other ecosystem properties, such as carbon storage. The establishment of permanent sites also means that the farm managers can continue monitoring for years into the future.
Work on our north Canterbury farm has also been ongoing throughout the summer: we have almost mapped the whole farm, started setting up tracking tunnels to monitor mammalian pests, buried tea bags in the different habitat types and conducted five-minute bird counts. In early February Ella Walmsley, a BSc student from AUT, cut the heads off cabbage trees that were growing in different habitat types to look at the native invertebrates living among the leaves. It has previously been found that there are invertebrates that only live in cabbage trees, and that the invertebrate communities change depending on whether the cabbage trees are growing in forest or in an urban setting. Based on this research, Ella is investigating if, and how, the invertebrate communities differ between different habitat types on the farm.
Kia ora rawa atu,
The Farming & Nature Conservation team:
Hannah Buckley, David Norton, Brad Case, Margaret Stanley, Jennifer Pannell, Valance Smith, Toni White, Estelle Dominati and Stacey Bryan