New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2019) 43(2): 3372

More than a ‘nice to have’: integrating indigenous biodiversity into agroecosystems in New Zealand

Forum Article
Fleur J.F. Maseyk 1*
Estelle J. Dominati 2
Alec D. Mackay 2
  1. The Catalyst Group, 1 Queens Wharf, PO Box 1048, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
  2. Farm Systems and Environment, AgResearch, Grasslands Research Centre, Private Bag 11008, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Globally, biodiversity is declining due to increasing populations and land use pressures associated with development-induced land conversion, resource use, and food production. In New Zealand, a considerable proportion of remaining indigenous biodiversity occurs on farmland in private ownership outside of the public conservation land. Therefore, coordinated actions on-farm are required to increase the opportunities to achieve biodiversity outcomes beyond the boundaries of the protected area network and increase farm sustainability and resilience. Increasing biodiversity on-farm can be achieved by enhancing existing biodiversity or through reintroducing structural diversity (e.g. planting of indigenous species and excluding livestock to prevent treading and grazing and allow natural regeneration to occur). Successful integration of biodiversity into decisionmaking on-farm requires explicitly accounting for biodiversity considerations in farm planning and design. A key requirement for this integration to succeed is for current land evaluation and farm planning processes to recognise indigenous species as a mechanism for increasing the sustainability and resilience of the farm business. Recognition of the functional value of biodiversity to the farm system is a step beyond the protection of remnant areas of bush or wetland for conservation alone. In this paper, we propose embedding the natural capital and ecosystem services approach into the farm planning process to quantify and value both the on- and off-farm benefits associated with indigenous biodiversity. This approach enables the inclusion of the previously excluded regulating and cultural services alongside provisioning services in the analysis of the farm accounts. Learning from and applying Matauranga Maori is pivotal to achieving this goal. We use the established principles of land evaluation in farm planning in New Zealand to provide a conceptual illustration of a potential pathway to operationalise this shift. Our approach recognises that indigenous biodiversity contributes to a wide range of benefits including cultural, environmental, social, and economic values, of which conservation is just one, albeit an important, outcome.