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Research To Bolster NZ's Endangered Ecosystems

Media Statement
2 May 2005

Research to bolster New Zealand's endangered ecosystems

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has confirmed investment of approximately $17 million per annum in research for protecting and enhancing New Zealand's land-based ecosystems.

Five significant long-term research programmes worth in excess of $200 million have been contracted for up to 12 years. They cover biosecurity, possum bio-control, ecosystem resilience, restoring and sustaining biodiversity and defining New Zealand's flora and fauna.

Landcare Research will lead a programme called 'Restoring and sustaining biodiversity' that seeks, among other objectives, to understand the key processes and species that keep diverse ecosystems functioning. This knowledge is critical for conservation and restoration work.

Another programme, also led by Landcare Research, involves collecting and collating information on land-based species that no one has put a name to yet, and about which little or nothing is known. This information is essential for conservation and policy makers to make robust decisions about conservation management. Landcare Research will maintain and develop national collections and databases of plants, insects and fungi in this programme.

The Foundation's General Manager Investments, Dr John Smart, says the research programmes will make a real difference towards stopping and reversing loss of biodiversity. "We are excited about the positive impact and value they will create for New Zealand."

These programmes are the first to be contracted using an investment process the Foundation is trialling called Outcome-based Investments.

The process focuses on the intended outcome of the research, giving researchers more freedom in the way research is conducted and ensuring end-users are involved right from the beginning.

"We have used an investment process that should ensure research results are implemented as soon as they are available. The key is for the science to be quickly transferred from the research lab or field into something that organisations like the Department of Conservation can use," says Dr Smart.

Investment has also been confirmed for six shorter-term projects of approximately $4 million per annum in total. Dr Smart says these are in areas not covered in the longer-term programmes, such as how to restore biodiversity in urban and lowland areas, specific pest management issues and social research to understand how policy can influence people and institutions to assist in restoring natural ecosystems.

AgResearch will lead a programme to develop the best policies for encouraging farmers and private landowners to develop "biodiversity corridors" such as shelter belts and riverside strips on their land. This is important as native lowland vegetation is at risk from fragmentation and little of this type of vegetation is protected in national reserves.

Another project led by AgResearch will contribute to New Zealand's biosecurity framework by balancing the risks and opportunities of releasing new organisms into the environment.

Developing a model of best practice for restoring ecosystems in city areas is a project the University of Waikato will undertake. It will use a heritage park in Hamilton city as a case study.

Landcare Research will lead three projects covering mammalian and plant pests. They seek a broader understanding of how multiple pests interact and aim to develop cutting-edge modelling tools to predict the distribution and movement of pests in the landscape. This will allow better targeting of pest control by conservation and land managers.

These projects were selected from a large number of bids. "We had many strong projects to choose from and in the end have invested in the very best research. We recognise there were strong research programmes that we were unable to invest in," says Dr Smart.


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