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BEST: Biodiversity and ecosystems services for resource management

Completed September 2019
A research programme with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) Endeavour fund
Building biodiversity into an ecosystem service-based approach for resource management.

Nature provides many services that underpin New Zealand’s economy: nutrients and water for primary production, aesthetic and recreation services for tourism, and decreased risk of natural hazards such as flooding. These services are called ecosystem services (or the benefits that nature provides). For Māori, elements of ecosystems and their linkages form the basis of whakapapa (ancestry) and kaitiakitanga (sustainable resource management) principles, and support customary foods important for health and well-being. By managing ecosystems well we will boost the productivity and value of New Zealand’s environment-based industries. However, development and intensification of land use often results in degradation of ecosystem services and biodiversity.

Our research aims to avoid potential degradation by helping land managers make better informed, “smarter” natural resource management decisions that preserve options for future resource use and enhance the value derived from New Zealand’s landscapes.

This research partnership brings together a broad base of expertise (ecologists to economists) from Crown Research Institutes (Landcare Research, AgResearch, Scion) and universities (Canterbury, Auckland), with collaborations with researchers in England and France.


The research focuses on three research areas:

  • Linking biodiversity, ecosystem services and land cover: Using existing studies through meta-analysis to identify relationships between land cover and ecosystem services, and bringing together scientific knowledge and Mātauranga Māori (Māori traditional) knowledge to develop bi-cultural indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Exploring alternate future landscapes and landscape change: Developing the modelling capability to represent the spatial dynamics of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human behaviour by integrating a suite of models that represents different elements of landscape change.
  • Integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services into decisions: Working with land and water managers to help them identify their dependency and any positive and negative impacts on native biodiversity and the flow of ecosystem services from their decisions. This involves developing a participatory decision-making framework focused on biodiversity and the flow of ecosystem services within a landscape.

Describing Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are defined as the benefits that nature provides humans. This concept allows us to identify and consider the full range of benefits provided by different landscapes when making decisions and also prompts us to think beyond the immediate pressures or challenges we are facing in a landscape to address not only current issues but also potential future issues, the risks they pose, and the opportunities they provide.

Ecosystem services are typically classified as provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services.

Ecosystem services classification

Ecosystem services classification

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