Protecting naturally uncommon ecosystems
The striking volcanic rock outcrops on Banks Peninsula – appreciated for their visual impact – are now being valued and protected because they are habitats for special biodiversity.
The peninsula’s rock outcrops are examples of basic cliffs, scarps and tors – one of 72 different types of naturally uncommon ecosystems that have been identified in New Zealand.
These outcrops support a diverse range of native plants, in contrast with the surrounding low-diversity mix of regenerating forests and shrubland, and exotic pastures.
Our research has shown the rock outcrops support 350 vascular plants – more than one-third of the Banks Peninsula flora on just 5% of the landscape. About 63 species are found only on outcrops, and many are rare, including 4 of the 8 taxa endemic to the peninsula.
We have demonstrated that surrounding land use dramatically affects outcrop vegetation, as exotic species have increased with forest removal and land clearance. While steps needed to be taken to protect this biodiversity, until recently there was little interest in the cause.
To bring about change we built relationships with agencies and interested individuals. Our work with Christchurch City Council (CCC) and ECan has led to targeted weed and pest control efforts to support the threatened biota. We also provided materials to the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust (BPCT) to assist their efforts with land managers.
We produced a range of communication material for technical and lay stakeholders: scientific papers, popular articles, conference presentations and posters, etc.
Our recommendations for flora protection were incorporated into the 2009 multi-agency report ‘War on Pests: dealing to key pest plants and animals that threaten native species. A landowners guide for Banks Peninsula and Kaitorete spit.’
In 2013 one of our senior ecologists was the keynote speaker at a rock outcrops field day organised by BPCT and QEII National Trust, and attended by 90 landowners.
“We were delighted with the positive response from the presentation,” says BPCT Co-ordinator Rachel Barker. “We have since had discussions with landowners who are enthusiastic about doing more to manage the unique plant and invertebrate life of their rocky outcrops.”