Impact 1: Approaches to resolving complex environmental issues are understood, and opportunities recognised for adapting to global change and reducing vulnerability to resource scarcity.
Enhancing policy development
We are working closely with MPI, regional councils and other stakeholders to assess the likely environmental and economic impacts of climate change, land use change, and related policies. We have developed NZ-FARM – the New Zealand Forest and Agriculture Regional Model – which has already been used at catchment scale to assess policy options for improving water quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through changes in land management.
At the global scale, we are leading a collaborative project with AgResearch and Lincoln University to develop a trade-focused Integrated Assessment Modelling capability for New Zealand. This initiative will help government understand how climate policies and climate change may affect the global demand for and supply of primary commodities, which are vital exports for New Zealand.
Landcare Research has made a strategic investment in a partnership with the Computation Institute – a joint venture of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory in the US – using advanced computational techniques and facilities to develop high-resolution models of climate impacts and land use change. This work will support MFAT and other government agencies in international treaty negotiations and private sector business strategy.
The work is supported by Core funding, MPI-SLMACC and Landcare Research Strategic Investment.
Engaging business around ecosystem services
The World Resources Institute’s Ecosystem Service Review methodology helps businesses develop proactive strategies for managing the risks and opportunities relating to their dependence on ecosystem services (e.g. for water) and their impacts on these. We have been the first organisation in New Zealand to apply the method successfully — in this case, for ZESPRI International. The results are now being shared with a wide range of stakeholders such as DOC, MfE, Waikato Regional Council, and BusinessNZ with the aim of enhancing the understanding and actions of New Zealand businesses regarding ecosystem services.
This work was supported by Core funding and ZESPRI.
DOC has led a cross-departmental research programme in which we investigated the feasibility of biodiversity offsets in New Zealand. Offsets will help New Zealand to balance major economic development initiatives within a framework of no net biodiversity loss. The Programme has developed Best-Practice Guidance on Biodiversity Offsetting, which assesses both the biodiversity that would be lost under a development and the biodiversity benefits gained through compensation initiatives.
This year we were contracted by Meridian Energy to identify the vegetation and assess the impacts of their proposed dam on the vegetation values of the Mokihinui River gorge, and then develop a pest control plan for their proposed biodiversity compensation (offset).
We also helped develop a biodiversity offset proposal for a new coal mine (for Solid Energy, with Mitchell Partnerships). The proposal was intensively peer-reviewed by Tonkin & Taylor for West Coast Regional Council, and was presented at the Consents Hearing in mid-2012. This project, the Strongman Mine offset (Solid Energy) and the proposed Escarpment Mine offset (Buller Coal) focus on endangered species (kiwi, Powelliphanta snails) and threatened ecosystems. In each case, the approach to calculating the ‘baseline’ was relatively consistent. What differed markedly was the selection of a ‘multiplier’ – the value placed on ‘trading up’ or the 'in-kind' offset – and the value placed on cost-effectiveness of the offset. These projects offer a valuable practical insight into the hidden trade-offs that occur depending on how biodiversity is valued and which habitat-condition characteristics are selected, and how these skew offset projects towards pest control in specific ecosystems rather than revegetation of slow-growing, complex ecosystems.
Through our work with colleagues in Australia, USA, UK and South Africa (many of whom are associated with the international forum Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme) we are contributing to development of global frameworks to assess when and where biodiversity offsets are suitable, and ways of depicting and mitigating uncertainty in design and delivery. This is enabling local approaches to be consistent with international best practice.
Impact 2: Integrated economic, social, cultural and environmental initiatives for business and industry are effective in maintaining or enhancing their international competitiveness, market access and social licence to operate.
Restoration forestry for Tuhoe Tuawhenua Trust
Podocarp trees were selectively harvested from Tuhoe Tuawhenua Trust forests in the 1960s and 70s and now the Trust wishes to restore these podocarps in their tawa-dominated forests. Over the last decade we have undertaken various studies in these forests, and this work is now contributing to understanding how podocarps might be restored. Research includes the regeneration requirements of podocarp seedlings in relation to site conditions and competition from other plant species, as well as growth and mortality in remaining podocarp trees. Clearly seedlings and saplings of rimu, formerly the dominant podocarp in these forests, require significant light gaps to grow and survive into the canopy. As a means of creating canopy openings that form conditions suitable for podocarp regeneration, the Trust has more recently trialled the use of timber harvesting. The extraction of tawa as a high-value timber offers a self-funding means of restoring the forest and creating employment opportunities. Using the results of our experimental studies and modelling, as well as their experience in tawa extraction, the Trust has recently submitted a Sustainable Forest Management Plan to MPI as the fist step in operationalising the restoration of their forests. This is a community-empowering result from our collaborative research with the Trust.
This work is supported by MBIE contestable funding, MPI and Landcare Research investment.
Diagnostic tools for biosecurity
Accurate, rapid identification of organisms intercepted at the border and in post-border situations is critical to evaluating and responding to threats to New Zealand’s agriculture, environment and economy. Threats include fruit flies, plant pathogenic fungi and bacteria, and plants very likely to become severe weed problems. Understanding the potential risk, and whether control or eradication is possible, facilitates appropriate and timely responses from MPI, local authorities, sector groups and other stakeholders.
Systematics research underpins development of new biosecurity diagnostic tools. For example, the fungus Colletotrichum is one of the top 10 most important disease-causing pathogens in the world but it is notoriously difficult to identify the species associated with each disease. We used cultures from the International Collection of Microorganisms from Plants (ICMP) to clarify the taxonomy and provide MPI and plant pathology researchers with a barcoding tool – a set of authentic DNA sequences from standard genes that allow accurate identification of a Colletotrichum species within hours of it being discovered.
We worked with ZESPRI and MPI to identify Psa as the bacterium responsible for the initial outbreak of kiwifruit vine canker affecting Bay of Plenty orchards. Since then, we have analysed samples from 61 orchards (over 2400 leaves surveyed) – first by culturing the causal bacterium, followed by DNA sequencing to determine the within-species ‘pathovar’, and within that the particular strain of concern.
Among other recently-developed diagnostic tools (freely available online) for invertebrates and for plants, our weeds key is now routinely used by regional council biosecurity officers to identify banned garden plants at nursery inspections.
This work is supported by Core funding, TFBIS, MPI, KVH (Kiwifruit Vine Health), other CRIs (Plant & Food Research), and the Bioprotection Research Centre.
Declaring areas free of bovine TB
The number of TB-infected cattle and deer herds in New Zealand has dropped dramatically, from over 1700 in 1994 to just 66 by 30 June 2012. This reflects local elimination of TB from possums due to sustained and intensive regional-scale possum control to the point where TB is probably absent from large areas that previously contained infected possums – but can we be confident of this?
Over the last few years (in close collaboration with the Animal Health Board (AHB) and others), we have developed a quantitative framework for objectively assessing the probability that TB has been eradicated from a specific area. The framework combines predictions from a sophisticated model of TB in possums with multiple sources of surveillance data (including a radically new approach using traps and other possum-detection devices) to estimate the likelihood that TB is absent.
The framework, being used for the first time in 2012, is likely to enable AHB to declare tens of thousands of hectares are now free of TB. This is a crucial first step toward their goal of eradicating TB from 2.5 million hectares over the next decade or so. When local and regional eradication of TB is eventually achieved, the annual cost of TB management (currently $84m per year) will be substantially reduced. Achieving the goal will also ensure that export industries worth $20billion per year are permanently protected from the risk of TB-related threats to market access or product acceptability.
This work is supported by AHB and MBIE contestable funding.
Oral TB vaccination for wild possums
Eliminating bovine TB from wild possum populations is crucial if its control and eradication over entire landscapes is to be achieved in New Zealand. A long-lasting oral vaccination for possums could complement other TB control ‘tools’ in New Zealand, particularly where use of those other tools is heavily constrained. We have previously shown that oral vaccination with lipid encapsulated BCG can reduce TB infection rates in wild possums by over 90%. We have now completed the follow-on trial that showed residual protection can last for over two years following a single oral immunisation. This suggests that operational use of a wildlife vaccine against TB is technically feasible. Not only would it be a valuable back-up tool in New Zealand, it would also assist other countries in their efforts to control TB in wildlife reservoirs of the disease.
This work is supported by AHB and MBIE contestable funding.
The development and testing of low-cost single-capture and novel multiple-capture traps ensure professional contractors and community groups have traps that meet welfare requirements and which are cost-effective for controlling possums, rats, and stoats. We worked with a small business (GoodNature) and DOC to help test the killing effectiveness (humaneness) of new self-resetting traps. In Animal Ethics Committee approved trials on ship rats and stoats, the automatic traps passed National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) guidelines for both species.
We also developed an effective, very low cost, single-capture kill trap option (i.e. $9 per traps vs $160 for the GoodNature trap) especially for community groups that have limited operational budgets.
This work is supported by MBIE contestable funding.
More effective rabbit control
In partnership with Regional Services (Otago Regional Council), initial trials showed that the amount of toxic bait used for controlling rabbits could be reduced from 30 kg/ ha to 10 kg /ha – with no reduction in efficacy – simply by shifting from broadcast sowing to strip sowing. Costs were reduced by 25% when strip sowing was used solely for the toxic application. In future trials using strip sowing for both prefeed and toxic bait, we expect costs will be reduced by as much as 50%. Further trials are planned this winter, including testing alternative options that could further reduce sowing rates and costs.
This research has the potential to signi.cantly reduce rabbit control costs for farmers, some whom are currently spending up to $100,000 annually. Reducing the amount of toxin being applied should help address some public concerns about 1080 use, and also reduce risks to non-target species.
This work is supported by MBIE contestable funding.
Landcare Research’s partnership with central and local government, industry and Maori organisations is valued by them as a way of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of science expenditure that leads to National Outcomes being achieved.