Timberlands Submits Largest Wildlife Surveys of North Westland’s Forests

The result of what are probably the most comprehensive and extensive birdlife surveys in the West Coast region for twenty years have just been released by Timberlands West Coast Ltd. They were commissioned by Timberlands as part of a wider ecological assessment for the sustainable management of beech.

Of natural interest, these surveys evaluate the bird species diversity and abundance with Granville, Paparoa and Maruia forests over an area of 40,000ha.

Presence of important bird species such as Kiwi, Kaka, Blue Duck, Rifleman, Brown Creeper, Yellowhead and possible presence of the South Island Kokako were assessed by researches. Their findings with recommendations were presented to Timberlands. In line with nationally established trends in protected forests, results have indicated probable decline of some species despite minimal harvesting in the areas concerned.

Findings recorded 31 native bird species in the eastern Paparoa Range and 29 in the Maruia Valley forests. Among the rarer species encountered were Great Spotted Kiwi, Blue Duck, New Zealand Flacon, Long Tailed Cuckoo and Fernbird. Possible signs of presumed Kokako was also found the Grey and Maruia Valley forests. The forest areas in which evidence of Kokako was located are now also reserved from harvesting by the company.

Based on recent data, Kaka and Parakeets were present in high numbers in some of the studied forests than in other New Zealand forests. Kiwi were relatively common in parts of the eastern Paparoa forests abut absent in Granville and Maruia forests. However, because there is currently no up-to-date comparative data form adjacent conservation lands it has not been possible to compare bird population densities between these areas and forest managed by Timberlands.

“Never the less, those apprehensive about possible ecological disturbance caused by sustainable indigenous management can now have little cause for concern,” says Kit Richards, General Manager Planning Timberlands West Coast Ltd.

“In the light of all collected information and scientists recommendations, forest areas with especially notable wildlife are now reserved and protected from harvesting activity.”

Many other aspects of Timberlands sustainable management plans also ensure that any adverse disturbance to the forest biodiversity is minimised or avoided. Fruit bearing trees such as Rata and Miro, important enclaves of Rimu and old large and dead trees used for nesting by some important birds such as Kaka, are also protected. The management system is specifically designed to ensure such vital trees remain.

The surveys highlighted some concerns. Scientists noted that the patchy distribution of Riflemen in the Maruia State forest may relate to the densities of vespulid wasps in the area. Similarly, numbers of Robins and Kiwi as well as Blue Duck are low. Their decline is most likely due to predation from stoat and opossums.

Interesting patterns were also noted. Kiwi were often present in old logged forest while Kea and Parakeets seasonally use modified forest. Some of the areas recommended for protection had, in fact been previously modified.

Data from the surveys has been presented to the Department of conservation for the national database.