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Scientists Celebrate “Living Laboratory”

New Zealand Ecological Society
Media Release
1 October 2008

NZ Becomes Place of Rugby, Racing and Ecology

Scientists Celebrate “Living Laboratory”

New Zealand ecologists say the success of a 25 year ecological restoration project in the Hauraki Gulf is evidence of the country’s true values and national character.

More than 270 professional ecologists are meeting in Auckland this week to review the findings of scientific research on Tiritiri Matangi Island, which became a reserve in the 1970s after 120 years of farming.

Mel Galbraith, convenor of the New Zealand Ecological Society event, says it’s the first time ecologists have reviewed all of the island’s research together and seen the full extent of its contribution to ecology in New Zealand.

“It may not be rugby, racing and ecology exactly, but when you look at the achievements on Tiritiri Matangi, it’s clear that there is deep and long-lasting interest in our natural heritage.

“When the island’s volunteer group was formed it was fairly innovative and controversial, and we were told we would fizzle out in a year.

“Today it’s a group of 1500 members which easily generates $200,000 a year for ongoing research and restoration. It’s now much more than a labour base - it’s contributing materially to our understanding of species protection, biodiversity, and habitat restoration.

“It also shows the value of long term research, particularly for vegetation, where change occurs over time scales that are much longer than the typical research funding programme.”

Mel Galbraith says Tiritiri Matangi has an important place in New Zealand’s history as a model and a source of inspiration for voluntary efforts throughout the country.

Stripped bare by decades of livestock farming, Tiritiri Matangi is now 60 per cent replanted and has been rat free since 1993. More than 280,000 trees and shrubs have been planted by volunteers, and several species of forest birds have been successfully reintroduced.

Mel Galbraith says the symposium was an important opportunity to celebrate success in nature conservation.

“There’s no doubt that Tiritiri Matangi is a living laboratory that will help us find many more answers, and will throw up many more questions. The fact that there is so much voluntary support for this project is a very positive sign for ecological research in New Zealand.”

About the NZ Ecological Society
Formed in 1951, the New Zealand Ecological Society is New Zealand’s largest professional body for ecological scientists and ecological managers in New Zealand. Through its activities the society encourages ecological research; increases awareness and understanding of ecological principles; promotes sound ecological planning and management of the natural and human environment; and promotes high standards within the profession and by those bodies employing ecologists


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