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BiodiversityRerenga rauropi

Biodiversity is one of the four key focus areas for Hawke's Bay Regional Council. We are working towards halting biodiversity decline and envisioning a new hope for biodiversity in Hawke’s Bay.

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the huge variety of living things and how these are all connected in ways big and small … and even yet unknown.  

Biodiversity includes plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms as well as the ecosystems (on land or in water) where they live. Biodiversity can be of any scale – it could be a patch in your backyard or the whole planet. It’s everything from microscopic algae in our ponds and lakes ... to the huge whales that travel out in Hawke Bay. Biodiversity is the web of life. New Zealand’s high level of endemic biodiversity makes a unique contribution to global biodiversity. Our indigenous biodiversity — our native species, their genetic diversity, and the habitats and ecosystems that support them — is of huge value to New Zealand and its citizens, to our economy, our quality of life, and our sense of identity as a nation.

Watch the Biodiversity Hawke's Bay video to find out more about Biodiversity here in our region. 

What is under threat?

In New Zealand 75 animal and plant species have become extinct since human settlement. 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds threatened with or at risk of extinction.

Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s rare ecosystems are under threat of collapse, and over the last 15 years 86 species became at risk of extinction, compared with the conservation status of just 26 species improving in the past 10 years.

Approximately 75% of indigenous forest cover has been lost. 

New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country with four thousand of our native species in trouble.

HB Biodiversity threat chart

What steps are being taken?

Sadly biodiversity is still in decline across New Zealand. Several national documents have been, or are being, developed in an attempt to halt this decline, including a Threatened Species Strategy, National Biodiversity Strategy, National Biodiversity Action Plan and the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.

In Hawke’s Bay, a Biodiversity Strategy was produced in 2015. It was considered the first logical step to halting biodiversity decline and envisioning a new hope for biodiversity in Hawke’s Bay. It was the first time in our region’s history that all of the people involved in biodiversity work took stock of what’s going on, and agreed that something better needs to be done. The Strategy is not a regulatory rule-based document, but a guide to inform our community in their biodiversity efforts. The Hawke's Bay Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2020 followed, and sets out how, by working together, we begin to implement the five key objectives of the Hawke’s Bay Biodiversity Strategy.

The Regional Council's Long Term Plan goals

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council Long Term Plan 2018-28 (LTP) and Strategic Plan for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council 2017 reflect the key vision of the Hawke’s Bay Biodiversity Strategy, with biodiversity featuring as one of the four key focus areas for Council. The LTP sets out the four key steps in achieving the goal of “healthy and functioning biodiversity”, being:

  1.  By 2020, regional priority locations for ecosystem restoration – including in the coastal marine area – have been identified;
  2.  By 2030, key (target) species and habitat (sites) are prioritised and under active restoration (source: HB Biodiversity Strategy 2015-2050 and Action Plan 2017-2020);
  3. By 2050, a full range of indigenous habitats and ecosystems, and abundance and distributions of taonga species are maintained and increased in every catchment in Hawke’s Bay (source: HB Biodiversity Strategy 2015-2050 and Action Plan 2017-2020);
  4. By 2050, Hawke’s Bay is predator free in line with NZ 2050 target.

The Ecosystem Prioritisation Programme will play an important role in achieving the LTP goal of “healthy and functioning biodiversity”, but will not accomplish this in isolation. Other Regional Council programmes will play an important role in achieving this, including the Regional Pest Management Plan, Predator Free Hawke’s Bay, Hawke’s Bay Hotspot fund, Regional parks and the Erosion Control Scheme. Strong collaboration will also be required with external organisations, including territorial authorities, Department of Conservation, Queen Elisabeth Trust, Landcare Trust, Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay, and the general community.

Ecosystem Prioritisation

Ecosystem-based conservation, as opposed to species-based, has become the mainstream approach to protect indigenous biodiversity.  At the heart of this approach is maintaining and restoring a full range of remaining natural habitats and ecosystems.  It focuses on habitats and ecosystems as a means of conserving species, species assemblages and processes within them. This recognises that, by focusing on ecosystems we should maintain viable populations of indigenous species across their natural range. 

Hawke’s Bay region has approximately 497,000 ha of indigenous ecosystem areas remaining today.  It is unrealistic to aim for protecting and restoring all of the remaining indigenous habitats and ecosystems immediately, in terms of time and resources needed to do so.  This is the underlining driver for the current project - Ecosystem Prioritisation which will inform where to invest scarce resources in the next 10, 20 and 30 years for the best chance of achieving the outcomes sought.

Find out more 

Watch the Biodiversity Hawke's Bay video to find out more about Biodiversity here in our region and how you can help. 

The region was mapped for potential ecosystem types (i.e. pre-human inhabitation) using the latest ecosystem classification system developed by the Department of Conservation. Classification is based on climate and geology (including substrates and susceptibility to waterlogging), but also takes into account a known influence of volcanic (and glacial, if present) activities. A range of other existing documentations were deployed to create a comprehensive spatial layer of the ecosystem pattern.

The resulting map shows the pattern of terrestrial ecosystems that should occur under certain environmental conditions. 61 potential ecosystems types are mapped.

This base layer was intersected with the Land Cover Database (LCDB 4.0) and indigenous land cover types were extracted to estimate the remaining areas of each ecosystem type.

There are 4970,000 ha of indigenous terrestrial areas left in the region, which includes 59 ecosystems types. 22 of these ecosystems are threatened (less than 30% of original area left), mostly of lowland forest types, coastal and dune vegetation types, braided riverbed vegetation, and wetlands. Two ecosystem types were presumed extinct (one lowland forest type and one wetland type) whose historic extents were very small.

Ecosystem Prioritisation is undertaken using Zonation, a tool (software) that prioritises ecosystem or habitat sites based on their representation (i.e. ecosystem types for terrestrial and rivers, and geomorphic types for lakes), connectivity (with other terrestrial sites and/or aquatic ecosystems) and conditions.

Zonation-based prioritisation has been adopted by a number of regional councils and Department of Conservation. It requires ‘a cap’ in which it produces the best set of sites to achieve full representation. It is generally an area-based cap which is set by asking ‘of the remaining indigenous ecosystems, how much area can we manage within a given timeframe?’

For the Hawke’s Bay, we have set the cap of 30% (of the 497,000 ha of indigenous areas remaining) by 2050. The principle behind the 30% is the species-area curve, i.e. when habitat (or a population) is reduced to 20% of the original extent (or a population), the rate of species loss is exponentially accelerated. Therefore 30% was chosen as a reasonable target that balances species response with achievability and affordability.

The scope of the Zonation-driven prioritisation included terrestrial ecosystems (including wetlands and braided riverbeds), lakes and streams. Although ranking was done separately for the three ecosystem domains, ranking of terrestrial ecosystems reflects the connectivity with lakes and/or streams. For example, if there are two sites representing the same ecosystem type, but one intersects with high ranked streams and the other doesn’t, Zonation will rank the former higher as it would account for the connectivity of the terrestrial ecosystem with the river ecosystem.

Zonation identified 900 terrestrial sties (150,000 ha), 10,034 segments of streams (6,700 km), and 77 lakes (1,700 ha) as the top 30% priority. These sites/segments represent a full range of ecosystem types that are present in the region.

529 of the 900 priority terrestrial sites are less than 10 ha in size. Many of these small sites represent threatened ecosystem types whose remnants are becoming scarce, smaller, more fragmented and isolated. The majority of these sites are on private land.
Interpretation of the Zonation output has been done in collaboration with local experts with ecological and site knowledge, and involved verification of the ecosystem types and reviewing the boundaries indicated by the Zonation.

As mentioned earlier, the ranking of terrestrial ecosystem sites takes into account the connectivity to streams and lakes. Many of the top 30% terrestrial sites adjoin to, or contain highly ranked river segments and lakes. Given the very large volume of river segment and lake sites which are ranked top 30%, staff propose that they do not review river/lake sites individually. If significant values associated with river/lake sites that are not currently associated with the top 30% terrestrial ecosystem sites, they will be added.

As with any modelling tool, Zonation has limitations which need to be considered in the decision making process.

Ecosystem-based site prioritisation is a critical first step to achieving the Biodiversity Strategy objectives and outcomes of sustaining, protecting, and improving the full representation of native species and habitats. It is intended that the Ecosystem Prioritisation will form part of the conversation and decision making by groups and organisations across Hawke’s Bay.

The Ecosystem Prioritisation framework will become an integral part of integrated catchment management. Priority sites that are identified in catchments of interest could also be part of the solution to address issues such as soil/wind erosion and water quality. This is because these remnants are providing ecosystem services such as soil conservation and water retention at a varying degree depending on the their condition. These remnants are also proof that the ecosystem is resilient to the ecosystem is resilient to the condition of the site, and could be capitalised upon by afforestation as part of integrated catchment management. 

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