Archives For wetlands

This week’s photo shows Waituna Lagoon—the location of a recent community open day marking the first year of DOC’s partnership with Fonterra.

Waituna Lagoon, Southland, New Zealand.

The natural habitat at Awarua-Waituna, including the 1350 hectare Waituna Lagoon, is one of five key areas that DOC and Fonterra are working together to improve over the next ten years.

The open day was a chance for the local community to see the work being undertaken at Waituna by Fonterra and DOC, in conjunction with Ngai Tahu, the Southland District Council and Environment Southland.

“In the first year our focus has been on monitoring and science. We’ve got to get this right to ensure the whole project sets off in the right direction and can make a real difference,” said Fonterra Living Water Project Manager, Nicola Toki.

Today’s photo of the week is of volunteers planting harakeke/flax at Athenree Saltmarsh wetland near Tauranga.

athenree-volunteeers-580

The Athenree and nearby Waihi Beach community have taken on a challenge to plant over 9000 plants at the wetland over winter.

This work is part of a multi-year project to return farmland to wetland habitat for threatened native animals.

Photo by Peter Huggins, Partnerships Ranger, Tauranga.

DOC's Lizzy Sutcliffe.

Lizzy Sutcliffe

By DOC’s Lizzy Sutcliffe.

On the morning of World Wetlands Day this year, I was lucky enough to be in one of the world’s most beautiful wetland habitats, Ōkārito Lagoon on the West Coast.

At 7.30 am on  a perfect West Coast morning, I took a boat trip, courtesy of Ōkārito Boat Tours, to explore New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland.

Ōkārito wharf.

Ōkārito wharf

Despite being drawn back to Ōkārito time and time again I had never ventured out on to the lagoon. I knew the trip was going to be pretty special and it certainly didn’t disappoint, with an absolute blue sky allowing views of New Zealand’s highest peaks beyond glassy, reflective water and lush rainforest. We were all in awe of this insanely picturesque place and grateful to our guide, Swade, for opening this hidden world, inaccessible by land, up to us.

Swade the guide through the Ōkārito guide.

Swade, our guide

World Wetlands Day

International World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February around the world—a day set in recognition by the Ramsar Convention for the worldwide protection of wetlands—and this year’s theme was Wetlands & Agriculture: Partners for Growth.

In order to mark the day locally, DOC’s Franz Josef Field Base partnered with Ōkārito Boat Tours to offer seven, free boat trips for people living in the vicinity of Ōkārito Lagoon over the weekend of 1-2 February. The offer attracted 75 people (appropriately, many from rural/farming communities) from Fox, Franz, Hokitika and Haast all keen to get a glimpse of this nearby wonderland.

lizzy-sutcliffe-okarito-vegetation

Ōkārito Lagoon vegetation

A precarious balance

Since 2008, when Paula Sheridan and ‘Swade’ Finch began operating their boat tours, they have noticed how even small changes in weather, wind and water levels can cause dramatic changes in the behaviour and sightings of various birds.

On this day Swade noted that wading bird numbers had been low this year due to unusually high water levels in the lagoon. We still managed to spot a good variety of birds including godwits, spoonbills, Caspian terns and several of the area’s, iconic kotuku/white heron whose only NZ breeding colony is located just up river near Whataroa. I was particularly excited by the very real possibility of seeing an Australasian bittern—but, sadly, no such luck.

lizzy-sutcliffe-okarito-kotuku

Kotuku/white heron

Glaciers to Wetlands restoration partnership

Things are looking up for the huge diversity of species that rely on this precious fragment of the Coast. As part of its work to conserve the lagoon’s outstanding natural wealth, DOC has partnered with Air New Zealand Environment Trust (ANZET) on the four-year Glaciers to Wetlands project to restore the Ōkārito Wetland System.

Part of the project has been the creation of a community nursery in Ōkārito. The nursery will generate all the native plant species required to replant the areas at Ōkārito and Lake Wahapo. To date, thousands of seeds and seedlings have been collected, and will be grown at the nursery with the help of the community and volunteers.

View of the Southern Alps from Ōkārito Lagoon.

The Southern Alps

Already planning for next year!

As the sun rose higher in the sky and our boat returned to Ōkārito wharf, I struggled to think of a better way to celebrate the world’s vital and threatened wetlands. Paula tells me that plans for next year include land-based activities as well as the boat trips and sausage sizzle “so people can learn even more about the balance of this ecosystem and what it provides for all of us”.

If you can’t wait that long, you might have to just get yourself to Ōkārito and check out the boat trips, kayaking, walks and kiwi tours available from this humble township for yourself.

By Jack Van Hal, Delivery Planner Biodiversity

Yesterday (2 February) was World Wetlands Day. To celebrate, we’re putting the spotlight on Whangamarino Wetland in the Waikato.

Swamp land at Whangamarino.

Whangamarino Wetland in the Waikato

World Wetlands Day is held every year, on February 2, to mark the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Day provides an opportunity to highlight the important role wetlands play in our environment.

Whangamarino swamp.

Wetlands play an important role in the environment

Whangamarino Wetland is one of the largest swamp and peat dome wetland complexes in the country at 7,000 hectares. A Ramsar site since 1989, the wetland is also important to Waikato-Tainui people as recognised in the Waikato River Settlement.

Australasian bittern/matuku, black mudfish and swamp helmet orchid are just some of the threatened species thriving in the wetland. Other species include marsh and spotless crakes, fern birds, dabchicks and various gamebirds, making it a popular spot for game-bird hunting.

DOC ranger checking on the mudfish.

Mudfish

However, the wetland faces a number of threats, including excessive inflows of sediment and nutrients from the wider catchment, altered water levels due to the lower Waikato River Flood Scheme, predators, stock trampling and weeds. Despite these threats, large areas of raised peat bog remain in good condition, supporting communities of threatened wetland plants.

DOC has been implementing innovative wetland conservation initiatives at Whangamarino Wetland under the Arawai Kākāriki wetland restoration programme.

Kayaking through the wetland.

Kayaking through the wetland

This week’s photo was taken by Pete Monk at a local planting day at Onoke Spit in the South Wairarapa.

onoke-spit-planting-day

The Friends of Onoke Spit hold a yearly planting day in a gorse infested area at the beginning of the scenic Onoke Spit, clearing multiple plots of gorse to make way for native plants.

Children from the local Kahutara Primary School, and others from the area, attend each year and make a major contribution to getting the plants in the ground. The young plants also get protective matting and covers to help them survive in the wild climate of the Palliser coast.


Send us your photos

If you have a great, conservation related photo you want to share with the world (or at least the readers of this blog) send it through to us at socialmedia@doc.govt.nz.

Ask students in Dunedin how you snorkel a dune lake in the Far North without leaving home and they will tell you, ‘LEARNZ of course!’

Students checking out a fish under the microscope.

Checking out a fish

What started as a way to link New Zealand school children with field work in Antarctica back in 1996, has now evolved into a chance for schools to take part in virtual field trips across the country via live audio link ups and an interactive website with video, a web board and ‘ask an expert’ posts.

In its fourth year, the Far North field trip focuses on wetlands, with a strong Tikanga Māori and Te Reo component.

This year the focus of the Far North field trip was World Wetlands Day, held at Lake Ngatu. Schools from as far away as Dunedin joined in via LEARNZ, while around 160 students from nine Far North schools, and homeschoolers, actively participating in activities including a guided walk; investigating what species live in the lake; and traditional uses for natural resources found around the lake.

A sample collected from the wetland.

From the wetland

Ahipara School student, Ruapounamu, gave the most common response from students when asked for their highlight of the day; “My favourite was snorkelling because it was cool to see all the fish and the species that live in the lake.”

Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen, whose team ran the snorkelling, says her goal was to help the children to appreciate their role as kaitiaki (guardians) of the wetland.

Experiencing Marine Reserves Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen being interviewed.

Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen, being interviewed

“It’s a hands-on demonstration of the value of wetlands as flood protection,” says Camellia.

When quizzed about what they had discovered, Paparore School students talked about wetlands as also being places for holding water and providing habitat for native animals.

This year is the first time that the classroom materials have also been available in Te Reo.

DOC Kaitaia’s Community Relations Ranger and key organiser, Denice Gilliespie, believes that the event showed the lake in a whole different light for the students.

“They see how important it is to look after it so it sustains us all now and forever, recreationally and culturally,” says Denice.

Showing the children how to make things from natural materials that grow around the lake.

Whaea Betsy and Whaea Jane show the children how to make things from natural materials that grow around the lake

Lake Ngatu sits within the rohe of Ngai Takoto. Part of Ngai Takoto’s whakatauki (proverb) talks about the pioke (dog shark) being small in stature but still able to swim against the strong currents around it. For Te Runanga O Ngai Takoto’s Environmental Manager, Kaio Hooper, this is an important reminder in his role and commitment to ensuring that the lake is protected and cared for, despite increasing environmental pressures on the lake’s wellbeing.

Although still ranked as outstanding, environmental monitoring indicates a decline in Lake Ngatu’s water quality, and an increase in pest species. Kaio says this is a case for concern for Ngai Takoto, as the kaitiaki of the lake.

“For our people it’s not so much about scientific reports. They rely more on what they see, and they are noticing that the water is not as clear as it once was,” says Kaio.

Whaea Betsy with the poi and waka she made.

Whaea Betsy with the poi and waka she made

Kaio says Ngai Takoto is looking at ways they can address their concerns. To start the conversation, Kaio set up an information stall where people were asked to complete a simple survey focussed on understanding people’s aspirations and concerns for the lake’s health.

“We’ve been watching the lake change over the past couple of years and it’s not good. We want to work alongside interested parties on a management plan, and the survey is a good starting point” says Kaio.

World Wetlands Day at Lake Ngatu was a two day event hosted by Ngai Takoto and DOC, with support from Bushland’s Trust, Northland Regional Council, Mountain’s to Sea Conservation Trust and Clean Stream Northland.


World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is an annual event held every year on February 2 to promote the value and vulnerability of wetlands across the globe promoted by RAMSAR, an international agreement to protect wetlands.

By Wendy Sullivan, Project Coordinator

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2nd February and promotes wetland protection throughout the world. Wendy Sullivan, DOC Project Coordinator, tells us about the current wetlands restoration project occurring in the Canterbury high country.

O Tu Wharekai Wetlands.

O Tu Wharekai Wetlands

O Tu Wharekai Wetland Restoration Project its situated in the high country of Canterbury. The project is one of the best examples of an inter-montane (between or among mountains) wetland system remaining in New Zealand, and is nationally important for wildlife. It contains a mosaic of diverse wetland habitats nestled amongst high country tussocklands and set against the towering Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. The project includes the braided upper Rangitata River, and the 12 lakes that make up the Ashburton Lakes, along with ephemeral turfs, streams, swamps and bogs.

Lake Emily in the Hakatere Conservation Park.

Lake Emily in the Hakatere Conservation Park

New Zealand has experienced significant loss of wetlands. Over the last 150 years approximately 90% of inland wetlands (swamps, marshes, fens and bogs) have been converted to other land use. Many of New Zealand’s remaining wetlands are also under threat, mostly the result of human activities including nutrient run-off, pest invasions and drainage.

O Tu Wharekai is aiming to help stop the decline of wetlands through intensive management of the wetlands, researching and trialling new methodologies and raising awareness of the plight of wetlands. It is one of the three Arawai Kākāriki sites, a national wetland restoration programme.

The project has good populations of native and sport fish. Threatened bird species include Australasian bittern, black-fronted tern, wrybill and Australasian crested grebe. There are a number of lizard species including the threatened lizard species scree skink and long-toed skink. The glacial moraines of the high country produce kettleholes which are home to a rare habitat type – ephemeral turfs. Ephemeral turfs are one of the most poorly recognised wetland types. They occur where surface depressions in the land – kettleholes – become ponded with water during wet seasons or wet years, yet are partially or wholly dry at other times. Vegetation consists mainly of herbaceous plants forming a ground-hugging and often dense carpet of intertwined plants. Species present change with changing water levels. They are home to many threatened plant species.

Genetians in kettlehole. Photo by G Iles.

Genetians growing in high country kettleholes

While the area is relatively pristine, there are always threats lurking on the doorstep. There is the potential for water abstraction and storage for irrigation and stock water, and degraded water quality due to sediment and nutrient inputs from intensified farming practice. Broom and Russell lupins threaten the braided rivers, while grey and crack willow threaten the hydrology of lakes, streams and swamps by increasing sedimentation. Swamps, bogs and ephemeral turfs can be damaged by vehicles, rabbits and hares and stock. Predators such as ferrets, stoats, weasels, feral cats, hedgehogs and possums threaten birds, lizards and invertebrates.

Community involvement is also an important element to the project. There are a number of groups, businesses and individual assisting with monitoring and management such as weed control, bird monitoring and riparian planting. Further information can be found on the DOC website.

Australasian crested grebes.

Australasian crested grebes