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Aquatic treasures among damp BioBlitz highlights

Aquatic treasures among the highlights at damp BioBlitz

A rare native freshwater crayfish and some exceptionally large eels are among the many highlights of Christchurch’s first ever BioBlitz, underway in drizzly weather at Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens.

“BioBlitz – finding nature in the city” is a 24-hour quest that began at 3pm yesterday and finishes at 3pm today. Its aim: to find as many different non-human life forms as possible. A team of more than 80 biologists has been scouring the park and the gardens recording everything they can find, dead and alive; from plants to fungi to fish to animals, diurnal and nocturnal. They have been keeping a running tally of the number of species found.

The public have been calling by to take a look, and have been accompanying scientists on activities such as spotting eels by torchlight and electric fishing in the Avon. .

BioBlitz spokesperson, Landcare Research PR / Communications Manager Judy Grindell says a rare native koura (crayfish) was a surprise discovery. It was found in a pond in the New Zealand section of the Botanic Gardens.

“That definitely won’t be eaten. It is a protected species.”

Ms Grindell also says an eel search last night turned up a great deal of activity, including at least one eel more than a metre long.

There has also been an abundance of water fleas and water mites.

Landcare Research scientist Dr Wendy Williamson says she has found 75 species of bacteria from plants, soil and water bodies around the founds, and they are “good healthy bugs,” with excellent growing conditions.

NIWA scientist Cathy Kilroy says she has found hundreds of species of diatoms, spectacular single-celled algae with silica cell walls – far more species than expected.

Judy Grindell says rain has failed to dampen spirits at the BioBlitz.

“Everybody has gone out and enjoyed themselves despite the weather.

“Our many discoveries of micro-organisms and small invertebrates have been happy surprises for us.”

BioBlitz will be officially closed at 3pm by Environment Canterbury Chief Executive Dr Bryan Jenkins. Dr Jenkins will announce how many species have been found.

BioBlitz was organised by Landcare Research, Lincoln University and Christchurch City Council, with a big contribution from Botanic Gardens staff. Canterbury University, NIWA, Crop & Food Research, the Department of Conservation, Weed Busters, Environment Canterbury, Kaupapa Kereru and others are also participating.

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