A dry shrubland restoration within an irrigated farm landscape matrix in New Zealand

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Nicholas Dickinson

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Within a 7,000 ha plantation forest to pivot-irrigated dairy farm conversion in lowland Canterbury, New Zealand, 187 ha of land has been developed for ecological restoration; 27 new reserves have been integrated into the landscape matrix, with linkages through ecological corridors. The few local remnant benchmark communities consist of Kunzea serotina (Myrtaceae, kānuka, tea tree) with an understory of smaller shrubs and an almost continuous ground cover of Hypnum moss. Our studies have drawn attention to the important functional role of the moss layer, both in moisture conservation and for seedling establishment. Nutrient spillover from farmland favours adventive weeds, but tolerance of native plants to drought stress provides some advantages once they become established.  Management of noxious weeds (gorse and broom) and animal pests (rabbits and hares) is particularly critical. Our restoration strategy has been to establish research plots within the reserves, each of which has an established perimeter planting of Kunzea as protective buffer zones. This paper describes the results of experimental trials of soil acidification, mulch amendments, the efficacy of tree guards, how to restore the moss layer, the role of nitrogen fixers, and faunal colonization.  Natural colonization by some native plants provides some surprising findings, but the range of species is restricted by a lack of propagule sources at distances that allow native birds to disperse seeds. Current attempts to introduce inoculants and to embed small biodiversity pods within the restoration plots are discussed.  We show how the economics of upscaling requires different approaches to ecological restoration.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration