Nurturing native biodiversity

Biodiversity web

Early days – young native trees peek above the long grass within a native planting corridor. The Ngāi Tahu farms feature native planting reserves and corridors to encourage wildlife populations and habitats to connect, encouraging the free movement and re-establishment of populations and species.

An important part of Ngāi Tahu Farming’s aim to be a leader in sustainable dairy farming has been to set aside over 150ha of land from its dairy farm developments at Te Whenua Hou for restoration of native biodiversity.
Most of the Canterbury Plains has been farmed for a long time and native ecosystems have suffered as a result.
The continuing intensification of agriculture through new dairy conversions is often seen as a further threat to what little remains.
Ngāi Tahu Farming has entered into a three-year partnership with Lincoln University to develop a biodiversity plan, establish areas of native vegetation, and carry out research.
Nick Dickinson, Professor of Ecology at Lincoln University, says increasing biodiversity is not just about making the landscape look nicer, but can be used to improve the quality of water and soil.
Patches and corridors of native vegetation will be a feature on the Te Whenua Hou farms in the years to come, including shelter belts and plantings around houses and milking sheds.
Where possible, these will be built around remnant native plant communities already there. For example Pomaderris has one of its only two South Island locations at Te Whenua Hou, and Kānuka is an important representative of the native vegetation of drier parts of the Canterbury Plains.
Professor Dickinson says the Lincoln group hopes to encourage as well as introduce a variety of native animals. “We’ll be reintroducing or creating an assemblage of plant species that are right for weta, leaf vein slugs, lizards, earthworms and whatever else.”
One creature the scientists will be looking out for in particular, and keen to discover and encourage is Holocapsis, a threatened native ground beetle. The project should provide lots of opportunity for furthering Ngāi Tahu cultural aspirations with the re-introduction of traditional plants used for food, weaving and medicine.

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