New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2012) 36(1): 1- 20

A research strategy for biodiversity conservation on New Zealand’s offshore islands

Review Article
David R. Towns 1*
Peter J. Bellingham 2
Christa P. H. Mulder 3
Phil O’B. Lyver 2
  1. Research and Development Group, Department of Conservation, Private Bag 68 908, Newton, Auckland 1145, New Zealand
  2. Landcare Research, PO Box 40, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand
  3. Department of Biology & Wildlife & Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
*  Corresponding author

New Zealand’s offshore islands are refuges for many threatened species, a high proportion of vertebrate diversity, and the world’s most diverse fauna of seabirds. We present key issues and questions that can be used to guide research on the conservation of biodiversity on these islands. Four global reviews formed a basis from which we identified research questions of potential relevance to the management of these islands. The research questions were assigned in the context of nine objectives proposed as a means of achieving ecological integrity. For each of the nine objectives, we then asked what has been achieved in terms of island research and management, and what needs to be achieved in order to meet long-term goals. We used local examples to identify issues and questions specific to the islands of New Zealand. Our analyses revealed two research areas in which current understanding is poor. One is the need to understand ecosystem processes and their resilience to long-term environmental change. The second is the need to define and better understand the consequences of direct involvement by the public in the management of islands, including partnerships between government agencies, tangata whenua (original people of the land – Maori) and non-government organisations such as community groups.