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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Published 21 June 2011

Studying something that his children’s children may never see adds a certain urgency and poignancy to Simon Davy’s daily routine.

The United Kingdom-born associate professor in Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences is New Zealand’s only active coral symbiosis physiologist. His research focus is on the symbiotic relationship between algae and invertebrates, such as corals, and coral bleaching and disease.

Coral reefs cover just a fraction of the planet—estimated to be an area about the size of New Zealand—but are a vital part of the marine eco system and the economies of communities that rely on them for food, fish, building materials and tourism dollars.

“It’s old news to us that the reefs are going to die within 50 to 100 years,” says Dr Davy. “Climate change is the longer term threat but pollution and practises such as dynamite fishing are, if anything, a bigger problem because they are working much faster.”

Some years back, Dr Davy and a colleague were the first scientists to discover viruses in corals and the breakthrough sparked his interest in the broader topic of coral diseases.

He says corals are highly complex. They contain tiny algae which process light energy and provide the host with essential nutrients. When water temperatures rise, the micro-algae are expelled and the coral loses its colour and may die.

Full story from the Victoria research team.

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Our already silent forests are dying.

Scientists have proved for the first time the alarming rates of decline in regeneration of native tree species that rely on kereru, or native pigeons, to disperse seeds.

In two forests, they have found regeneration has fallen by up to 84 per cent over two years. However, they fear the problem could be far worse in other areas in which bird populations are much lower.

Canterbury university plant ecology professor Dave Kelly said researchers were taken aback by their findings. “It was a surprise for us how big the effect was and how long it was lasting for.”

At one extreme, the researchers said regeneration of trees could fail completely, leaving forests full of dying adult trees and eventually lead to the collapse of mature forests.

Dr Kelly, with Landcare Research ecologist Debra Wotton, studied native taraire and karaka trees in two forests less than 100 hectares in size.

Taraire rely exclusively, and karaka almost exclusively, on kereru to disperse their fruit, which are too big for other smaller birds to eat.

Although it was already believed that falling populations of kereru were having an impact on seed dispersal, it was the first time the link has been proved and assessed.

Full story on Stuff.co.nz

Photograph by Jim Stevens

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Thursday, 28 January 2010, 11:12 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation


A photograph taken of a baby tuatara on Wellington Harbour’s Matiu/Somes Island this month has confirmed for the first time that the rare reptiles are hatching on the island.

The juvenile, just a few months old and about 8cm long, was spotted by Harriot (8) and Nicholas Lane (10) and their cousin Harrison Vernon (11) while they were walking around the island with their grandparents Bob and Suzanne Vernon.

Tuatara were transferred to Matiu/Somes in 1998 and since then adult tuatara are regularly seen on the island. It has long been suspected that they are breeding, and this was finally proven when eggs were found on the island in 2007 and hatched at Victoria University.

But this is the first confirmation that young tuatara have hatched on the island itself.

full media release on scoop.co.nz

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Pohutukawa on coast

A thousand pohutukawa trees are being made available for planting on the Coromandel as part of efforts to get more of the iconic New Zealand trees flowering on the peninsula.

Regional council Environment Waikato and the Project Crimson Trust are partnering up for the project which will see the 1000 pohutukawa distributed to Coromandel landowners next winter.

“The aim is to get more pohutukawa established to help this much-loved species survive, and to ensure that future generations can enjoy the red Christmases the Coromandel is well known for,” said Environment Waikato land management officer Matt Highway.

“These trees will also support Peninsula Project soil conservation initiatives, improving biodiversity, water quality and soil stability,” said Mr. Highway.

EW will distribute the seedlings to landowners via the Peninsula Project soil conservation programme. They will also collect local pohutukawa and rata seed, which will be ready for planting in three years. This eco-sourcing ensures the distinctiveness of Coromandel plants and ecosystems.

Project Crimson Trust executive director Bridget Abernethy said: “We like partnering with organisations like Environment Waikato. We can take comfort that these trees are going to go to the most appropriate locations, that they will be planted by caring communities and that they will be protected for future generations.”

The Project Crimson Trust, set up in partnership with Meridian Energy and the Department of Conservation, is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of New Zealand’s pohutukawa and rata trees. Project Crimson Trust is celebrating 20 years this February 2010.

In 1989 around 90 per cent of the original area of pohutukawa in New Zealand was thought to have been lost. Much of what remained had been ravaged by possums, with very little regeneration evident. Since 1990, Project Crimson volunteers have planted almost half a million pohutukawa across New Zealand.

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File:Buller Kakapo.jpg

DOC has managed to breed two kakapo using artificial insemination in what’s being hailed as a world first and a boost for critically-endangered birds everywhere.

Kakapo are notoriously slow to reproduce, and DOC hopes the breakthrough will now ensure the birds’ survival.

There are only 124 kakapo in existence, but with the help of artificial insemination, or AI, they may just be able to claw their way back from the brink of extinction.

“It’s just a fantastic tool for us to protect the future population of kakapo against further inbreeding, and also hopefully improve fertility rates,” says DOC’s Deirdre Vercoe.

“It’s a real breakthrough, a scientific breakthrough to achieve AI in a wild bird like this,” says Forest & Bird’s Chris Todd.

With more than 50 percent of kakapo eggs infertile, associate professor Ian Jameison says AI is a revolutionary tool in the fight for their survival.

full tv3 story and video

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Monday, 21 December 2009, 11:12 am
Press Release: NZ Plant Conservation Network

Climate change increases value of Kiwi native plant

The golden sand sedge – pingao – has won the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s 2009 favourite plant poll, and could be a valuable defence against climate change effects.

The pingao topped more than 100 species in the annual poll. Network President Philippa Crisp said that pingao would become increasingly important in combating the effects of climate change, particularly as an increasing number of coastal homes came under threat

“If the global plan to fight climate change stalls and sea level rises occur, pingao will become even more important to New Zealanders because it plays an important role in stabilising sand dunes and creating a beach contour that is not so vulnerable to storm events and sea level rises,” Dr Crisp said. “Pingao may be our only sustainable hope for coastal protection”.

full media release on scoop.co.nz

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2010 – pivotal in seeking to secure world night sky reserve for New Zealand
Next year is pivotal to the success of New Zealand seeking a world heritage night sky reserve for Tekapo Aoraki-Mt Cook

A UNESCO World Heritage meeting in Brasilia in June will be crucial to New Zealand’s chances, leader of the Working party bid former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin says.

“We are launching a nationwide campaign in the lead up to the Brasilia conference next year, so we can tell the public people this project has real and exciting potential particularly in the lead up to the Brasilia conference.’’

Austin says there has been a reluctance to acknowledge that the stars and starlight are significant to human heritage under UNESCO conventions.  But there is a groundswell of public concern at the extent to which people no longer see the stars in so many parts of the world and we need a source of income to achieve our goal of world heritage and international support.

The key milestone this year was getting the Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook starlight reserve working party up and running so the bid could demonstrate their commitment to the project. With the backing of the Mackenzie District Council there is a belief that astro-tourism, education and awareness of the significance of the dark sky and appreciation of the cultural history for Maori can be realised in the next few years.

full media release on scoop.co.nz

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