Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Orchard ecosystem services: bounty from the fruit bowl

Vineyard. Image - John Hunt

Vineyard. Image - John Hunt

The ecological infrastructures that underpin the production of New Zealand’s fruit comprise valuable natural-capital assets. From these stocks flow ecosystem services that are valuable to the whole community.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment classified ecosystem services into four typologies:

  1. The provisioning services of food, fuel and fibre production
  2. The supporting services of soil formation and nutrient cycling
  3. The regulating services around the buffering and filtering of water, carbon and gases
  4. The cultural services of heritage, recreation and spiritual well-being.

Horticulture generates NZ$3.5 billion of export revenues for New Zealand annually and sustains a NZ$2.9 billion domestic economy. All of this provisioning service comes from just 70 000 hectares of orchards and vineyards. Certainly there is provisioning bounty coming from the orchards of New Zealand’s regional fruit bowls.

And the three other types of ecosystem services generated by orchards are not simply of value only to the orchardists and growers, as the wider community also benefits. Indeed they depend on them. In terms of the buffering of water, we have found that every bottle of Marlborough wine, packed and ready for despatch at the winery gate, has a negative water footprint of −66.8 litres per bottle. In other words, as a result of the production of the average bottle of Marlborough wine there is a net contribution of 66.8 litres of water to underlying groundwaters. This is because, on average, the natural capital stock of annual rainfall exceeds the evaporative consumption of water. So the Marlborough community benefits from the drainage of water through the vineyard soil that replenishes groundwater, which eventually becomes surface water in streams near Springs Junction – a valuable regulating service from which everyone benefits.

We also discuss the value of the supporting processes operating within the soil of orchards and vineyards, along with the role and value of the cultural ecosystem services that flow from the ecological infrastructures of New Zealand’s orchards and vineyards.

Examples of the cultural ecosystem services delivered by vineyard natural capital

Clothier BE, Green S, Müller K, Gentile R, Herath I, Mason K, Holmes A 2013. Orchard ecosystem services: Bounty from the fruit bowl. Chapter 1.7 in Dymond JR ed. Ecosystem services in New Zealand – conditions and trends. Lincoln, Manaaki Whenua Press.

Brent Clothier — Plant & Food Research
P: 06 953 7687 E: