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  Environment » Natural Resources » Biodiversity » Forest fragments

life in a forest fragment life in a forest fragment

LIFE IN A FOREST FRAGMENT: Native birds, reptiles, a variety of bugs and insects, and even our native bats may be found in forest fragments.

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MANAGING FOREST FRAGMENTS: You can manage forest fragments by fencing out livestock, controlling pests and weeds, and planting.

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THREATS TO FOREST FRAGMENTS:  Pests and weeds threaten all areas of native forest in New Zealand.

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KAHIKATEA FOREST FRAGMENTS: The kahikatea (white pine) is New Zealand’s tallest tree, growing up to 60 metres.

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CASE STUDIES: Learn more about forest fragment restoration and protection work in the Waikato. 


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RESOURCES: Find out more about organisations and funds that can provide support and advice around forest fragments and restoration projects.

Forest fragments (small patches of native forest) 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. You will find information about the extent and types of forest fragments in the Waikato region and threats to these patches of native forest. You will also find out about protecting and managing our region’s remaining forest fragments.

About forest fragments

Forest fragments are usually the patchy remains of larger native forests, left over when land around them has been cleared. Some fragments are new areas of forest which have grown back on cleared land. Small, isolated pockets of native forest are often too small to support some native plants or animals. They are also easily damaged by pests or stock.

Most of our region’s forest fragments are small (88 percent of them are 25 ha or less). We need to manage and protect fragments because in some areas they are all that is left of our native forests. These pages explain the special problems fragments face, and provide tips to help them survive.

Why forest fragments are important

  • Some forest types (such as kahikatea) now only occur as fragments.
  • Fragment vegetation helps prevent soil erosion and maintain water quality.
  • Birds can use them as ‘stepping stones’ to move between the larger forest areas.
  • Even small fragments may contain threatened species such as kingfern.
  • They can act as windbreaks to shelter stock in nearby paddocks.
  • They can be core areas for habitat restoration or sources of plant material for restoration.
  • They provide a source of native seeds that birds or wind can carry across the landscape to other natural areas.
  • Their native insects may help pollinate nearby crops or control pests.
  • They can provide resources for cultural or educational use.
  • They may be the only natural areas remaining (in Hamilton City, Franklin, Waipa, Hauraki and Matamata-Piako districts nearly all remaining forests are fragments less than 25 ha).

Types of forest fragments

The Waikato region has over 4,000 native forest stands that are smaller than 25 ha. The most common forest types in these small patches are:

  • Tawa forest – 56 percent.
  • Mixed broadleaved forest – 25 percent.
  • Kahikatea and totara forest – 10 percent.

The rest of our forest fragments are kanuka or manuka, kauri and beech forest.

Fragmentation in our region

Originally, the Waikato was covered in a few massive tracts of native forest. Today these have been fragmented into thousands of patches of native forest ranging in size from less than 1 ha to a 94,000 ha stand of forest in the Coromandel Ranges. However, the vast majority of our fragments are smaller than 25 ha.

In some parts of the region these small fragments are all we have left. Hamilton City, for instance, has only a few areas of native forest that are bigger than 25 ha – two thirds of Hamilton’s native forest is in small fragments. Native forest in Waipa and Franklin Districts is also very fragmented with about 20 percent of their native forest occurring within fragments smaller than 25 ha.

Find out more about forest fragmentation in our indicator.

What you can do with your forest fragment

There are many ways to make the most of your forest fragment:

  • Enhance it for your own enjoyment - for example, walking, bird watching, photography.
  • Let it help to maintain your property - for example, protect your soil, reduce flooding, provide shelter and provide a habitat for birds and insects which may control pests (to reduce pesticide use).
  • Use as an eco-tourism venture - for example, link to Bed and Breakfast as an extra attraction.
  • Sustainably harvest it - for example, for bee-keeping, essential oils, seed stock for a native plant nursery, medicinal plants and craft materials.
  • Use it to seek rates relief or to market your property if selling.
  • Use it to help secure consents - for example, extra subdivision rights.
  • Use it for educational purposes – get students involved in its restoration and maintenance.
  • Use it as a seed source for local restoration projects.
  • Get help in protecting it - for example through the Environmental Initiatives Fund or your local school or Landcare Group to assist with planting, fencing and pest control.
  • Apply for a private covenant to protect it for future generations.

More than 245 landowners in the Region have protected over 500 patches of native vegetation (more than 9,000 ha in total) through Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenants. Many of these are forest fragments.

There are many ways to protect and enhance our Waikato forest fragments. Find out how to restore a forest fragment.


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