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Tackling threat of biological invasion

August 22, 2005

Tackling threat of biological invasion

The threats posed by biological invasion to New Zealand's unique ecosystems will be the focus of research and postgraduate teaching at a new Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity (CBB), a joint initiative of The University of Auckland and Landcare Research.

The centre, launched today (Monday, August 22) by Auckland Conservator Sean Goddard, brings together pre-eminent experts in biosecurity, conservation biology, biodiversity research, and the development and application of new molecular technologies to biosecurity and biodiversity issues.

Centre Director Professor Mick Clout says the co-location of Landcare Research at the University's Tamaki Campus is providing new opportunities for synergies to be generated around existing areas of research and a strong platform for new research.

"Biological invasion is now recognised as a major threat to native biodiversity, particularly in island nations, and conservation of our biodiversity and improved biosecurity are both major concerns of the Government.

"Establishment of this centre will significantly enhance New Zealand's capacity for efficient, quality management of biodiversity, conservation and biosecurity both here and internationally," he said.

The Chairman of the CBB Board, Dr Dave Chocquenot, of Landcare Research, says bringing together the collective expertise of the University and Landcare Research, will enable the centre to develop joint academic leadership at the national level and programmes that will become recognised internationally.

"It will be a key centre for research aimed at maintaining the biosecurity of New Zealand and at understanding and better conserving the biodiversity of both this country and the wider South Pacific region," he said.

The centre will draw on scientific expertise and capability within both organisations. In Auckland, Landcare Research holds a number of nationally and internationally significant collections - the New Zealand fungi collections, the National Nematode Collection and the International Collections of Micro-organisms from Plants.

The University hosts the global headquarters of the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union at the Tamaki Campus, and has expertise in animal behaviour, plant ecology, molecular ecology, conservation biology and restoration ecology.

The centre will also build on existing joint ventures such as the Global Invasive Species Database, hosted by Landcare Research and managed by University staff on behalf of the World Conservation Union.

The free online database (www.issg.org/database), containing profiles of 320 invasive species that threaten biodiversity in different parts of the world and information on how to deal with them, is increasingly recognised as the most significant internationally authoritative source on such organisms, says Professor Clout.

Further expansion of the site is planned, including possible development to provide advance warning of invasive species spreading to New Zealand and other parts of the Pacific.

Professor Clout says other opportunities for joint work exist in the Pacific region, where both Landcare Research and the University have strong links through the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, New Zealand endorsed a Co-operative Initiative on Invasive Species on Islands and since then Professor Clout has received $1 million in New Zealand Aid funding to establish a Pacific programme for the initiative.

Professor Clout says demonstration projects against invasive species on various Pacific Islands will provide exciting opportunities for research, as well as educational opportunities for people from the Pacific in biodiversity management and biosecurity.

"Clearly, the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity also has a potential role here."

ENDS

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