Sustaining Our Natural Heritage

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Our Native Forests
Despite legal protection New Zealand’s mainland forest communities are continuing to deteriorate.  Even our National Parks’ ecosystems are threatened.

Forest clearance, unsustainable harvesting and competition have all been blamed for past extinctions. Today however the single most important driving force behind the extinction of our forest birds, invertebrates and reptiles is predation.

In an attempt to preserve our remaining natural heritage a series of land allocation decisions during 1986-1988 protected new areas and resulted in 1,802,358 ha of the West Coast landscape being designated for Conservation purposes. As part of this process 132,000 ha of publicly owned forest was also set aside in 1986 for sustainable native forest management.

Thistle Creek Landscape Reserve, Maruia

Of the total West Coast land area just 6% was allocated for the purposes of sustainable production of New Zealand’s beautiful native timbers.

As manager of the estate, Timberlands West Coast has commissioned numerous research works to better understand New Zealand’s flora and fauna and provide greater insights into preventing interference to natural habitats and ecosystems fromcommercial timber production.

Caring for the Environment
Obtaining timber from a natural forest can be one of the most sustainable industries. It uses native plants which have adapted to the climate and locality over millions of years rather than introduced species. It uses no pesticides or fertilisers, has minimum impact to most native species present and it does not degrade the ecosystems as other intensive primary land uses have done in the past in New Zealand.

The system of sustainable forest management is an environmentally sensitive one that combines the concept of sustainable land use and forest management. With many of our wildlife under threat of extinction the aim of sustainable management is to achieve minimal impact to forest ecosystems. This is by utilising the natural forest processes from regeneration of seedlings through to their maturity and eventual death.

Preserving a near natural wildlife habitat and species diversity requires a complex planning system with strict guidelines to control all aspects of management. All of this is subject to independent audits.

Native Fauna
From the coast to the mountains and from the wetlands to deep forest, North Westland’s forests support an interesting array of wildlife in the wide range of habitats provided.

As well as birds and bats, wildlife in these forests include fish, frogs, lizards, snails and insects, some species of which are very rare.

Birds & Bats
Timberlands West Coast recently sponsored large scale bird and bat surveys in the region. The results generally confirmed a declining trend of some species despite minimal harvesting in the areas concerned.

Up to thirty one native bird species were recorded during the surveys. Important birds like kaka and parakeet were recorded in low but widespread numbers, though some concentrations were identified. Kiwi were relatively common in parts of the eastern Paparoa Forest and smaller birds such as bellbird, yellow-breasted tit, fantail, grey warbler and silvereye were noted throughout the areas surveyed.

Among the rarest birds encountered were blue duck, New Zealand falcon, long-tailed cuckoo and fernbird. Of the two indigenous bat species, only the long-tailed bat was detected. Possible evidence of the existence of the South Island Kokako, regarded as possibly extinct, was also found.

One concern was the disappearance of the riflemen as these were only observed where wasp numbers were relatively low. This indicates that wasps may be limiting their numbers through competition or predation of recently hatched chicks.

Insects
Insects play a critical part in the forest ecosystem. Processes such as pollination and the decomposition of plant and animal matter are completed to a large extent by insects. Insects are also an important source of food for many of New Zealand’s native birds.

Insect Distribution
As a part of its development of sustainable forest management systems, Timberlands West Coast has initiated invertebrate research that will help understand ecological interactions fundamental to the maintenance of forest ecosystems and ensure sustainable management has no adverse impacts.

Fish
All fish are vulnerable to poor water quality, increased sedimentation and extremes in temperature so it is important to avoid any interference to stream habitat conditions.

In 1996 Timberlands west Coast commissioned a review of the fisheries resources, and management impacts upon them, by utilising records from the West Coast Fish & Game Association and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research database.

The information showed that while densities of native fish species were low in general, four of the ten species found in the West Coast native production forests were considered by the Department of Conservation as threatened in some way.

With careful attention to riparian management and adoption of aerial selection harvesting no threat to these species was envisaged.

Reptiles
Like many unfortunate species in the food chain, lizards form a dietary component of many predators, particularly stoats.

A survey completed in March 1997 studied the habitats and presence of lizards. Forest geckos, West Coast green geckos and common skinks were located throughout. Species of conservation concern, particularly the speckled gecko and the West Coast skink, were not found.

Species found were located in both previously modified, as well as currently unmodified forest.

Predators
Introduced mammalian predators are common, widespread and difficult to control over large areas of forest. They breed quickly and disperse widely, so numbers soon resurge following a control operation.

Video cameras with infra-red light sources have filmed rats and possums attacking nests of kokako, pigeons and robins in forests. Feral cats have been filmed eating endangered black stilts, and hedgehogs and ferrets eating banded dotterel eggs in open habitats such as braided shingle riverbeds.

Stoats and rats have also been identified as important predators of kaka and yellowhead, both of which are disappearing from South Island, New Zealand. Irrespective of total forest protection these predators will continue to drive the decline of these endangered wildlife.

Radio transmitter attached to stoat during predator eradication research trials.

 

 

This decline can only be arrested by research and management intervention such as removing the endangered species to predator free islands or by controlling predators and browsers. Presently there are no simple and cost effective means of achieving widespread control.

Timberlands West Coast has been funding comprehensive predator research. The objective is to attempt to assist in finding a solution. Eventually it is possible that habitats can actually be enhanced under forest management.

Finding safer and cheaper methods of killing a variety of predators through adequately funded research could provide a lasting gift to conservation throughout New Zealand.

Production without Destruction
Timberlands West Coast is concerned about the impact native logging may have on wildlife.  Recommendations from extensive and continuing research are being incorporated into existing guidelines set for sustainable management of the small percentage of native forest allocated for production.

To further significantly reduce any impact harvesting may have on native species, the company has chosen to follow scientifically approved procedures including:

Ensuring a proportion of old and large diameter trees are not harvested as these are the habitats of some rare birds and plants.
Securing rata-rich forests as they provide important seasonal food for kaka, pigeon and tui.
Ensuring the size and species structure of the forest is retained.
Protecting fruit bearing trees including rimu where they are particularly sparse in beech forests.
Protecting areas of high fauna significance as identified by research surveys.
Minimising the need for roads by extracting logs by helicopter.
Promoting restoration of mined sites to better accommodate wildlife needs.
Reducing the number of predators and competitors and attempting to aid an increase in reproduction of threatened species.
Assessing and planning roading alternatives on an environmental impact basis.