loss of indigenous habitat

An updated assessment of indigenous cover remaining and legal protection in New Zealand’s land environments

It is important, yet hard, to assess how much of the full range of New Zealand’s terrestrial natural ecosystems and biodiversity remains, and is protected from loss. Updated spatial datasets of land cover and protection allow a nation-wide consistent assessment of the loss and protection context of indigenous biodiversity components.

Recent loss of indigenous cover in New Zealand

Recently developed national spatial databases enable improved estimates of how much of the full range of New Zealand’s terrestrial biodiversity pattern remains, its rates of change, and how much is legally protected. Analysis using a classification of land environments derived from soil and climate data layers (LENZ) as a surrogate for biodiversity pattern, and spatial databases of land cover and legal protection, shows extreme (>70%) loss of indigenous cover in 57% of land environments, and poor protection (<20% land area protected) in more than two thirds.

Patterns of past and recent conversion of indigenous grasslands in the South Island, New Zealand

We used recent satellite imagery to quantify the extent, type, and rate of conversion of remaining indigenous grasslands in the inland eastern South Island of New Zealand in recent years. We describe the pattern of conversion in relation to national classifications of land use capability and land environments, and ecological and administrative districts and regions. We show that although large areas of indigenous grasslands remain, grassland loss has been ongoing. Indigenous grassland was reduced in the study area by 3% (70 200 ha) between 1990 and 2008.

Re-examination of recent loss of indigenous cover in New Zealand and the relative contributions of different land uses

Loss of indigenous habitat is a key factor in the decline of New Zealand’s biodiversity. A recent contribution by Walker et al. (2006, New Zealand Journal of Ecology 30: 169–177) described losses of indigenous vegetation between 1996/97 and 2001/02 (some 17 000 ha) based on an analysis of changes in the Land Cover Database, LCDB1 and LCDB2, respectively.