The large amount of information gathered on the fragments of native forest left in the Region is assisting Environment Waikato to help landowners manage them.
This week’s Environment Committee heard that 20 percent of the Region remained in native forest cover. Information from research, monitoring and database development was enabling Environment Waikato to review its policies and assist landowners to maintain and enhance regional biodiversity.
Scientist Karen Denyer said native forest fragments were patches of bush scattered across the landscape, separated by pasture, plantation forests, orchards or urban areas. Most forests on private land were relatively small blocks and in the past scientists and resource managers have paid little attention to their values or management needs.
“Forest fragments have their own particular threats and management needs because of their small size, isolation from other forest areas and range of activities that occur on the land around them.”
Environment Waikato had supported research into their functioning, especially the effects of adjacent land use. This had shown that pine plantations could benefit forest fragments, sheltering edges from wind and sunlight.
It had also gathered information on the extent and distribution of native forests, the extent and degree of legal protection and the extent of fragmentation and isolation. Databases contained information on current and historic vegetation, location of QE11 covenants and DoC reserves. There were also databases of native plants and threatened species.
“Knowing which plant species naturally occur in which parts of the Region will help select appropriate plants for riparian planting, consent mitigation works and voluntary restoration projects.”
A handbook with a wide range of monitoring methods had been developed and distributed to landowners and key stakeholders such as forestry companies and local authorities through two field training days. A series of very popular factsheets had been produced on managing forest fragments and more were being developed. Ways of monitoring the health of native forests were being developed with the Ministry for the Environment, which had been field tested on private land in Matamata Piako.
Managing biodiversity was a relatively new role for Environment Waikato which would be strengthened with proposed changes to the Resource Management Act, a new national policy statement and the development of a Biodiversity Action Plan, she said.