New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2003) 27(2): 207- 220

Developing a forest biodiversity monitoring approach for New Zealand

Forum Article
Robert B. Allen *
Peter J. Bellingham  
Susan K. Wiser  
  1. Landcare Research, P.O. Box 69, Lincoln, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

There is a lack of comprehensive and consistent information to inform policy makers about the status of New Zealand’s forest biodiversity. Three reasons for collecting such information are: assessing the effectiveness of management, reporting on the status of biodiversity under national and international requirements, and improving our knowledge of ecosystem dynamics for designing effective management systems. The challenge is to design monitoring systems that address these multiple needs simultaneously, and at a range of spatial and temporal scales. This article first considers principles for designing enduring monitoring systems based on past experiences, assessing how effectively these principles were implemented in designing New Zealand’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), and finally, suggesting future directions for forest biodiversity monitoring in New Zealand. At a national scale we support an unbiased, systematic sample of forests as implemented in several countries (e.g. Austria and the U.S.A.). We consider it best practice to monitor shifts in the fundamental compositional, structural and functional characteristics of ecosystems and use these to derive indicators. We suggest forest biodiversity indicators should include forest area and spatial arrangement, tree mortality and recruitment, exotic weeds, introduced herbivore impacts, and woody debris. Principles discussed in this paper are relevant to biodiversity monitoring in a wider range of ecosystems than forests. Without spatially extensive, robustly designed, biodiversity monitoring systems, New Zealand will remain in a relatively weak position nationally, and internationally, to report on the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation.