Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


NZ mountain plants may depend on declining kea, UC lecturer

NZ mountain plants may depend on declining kea, UC lecturer says

November 1, 2012

Over summer many holiday trampers will get close up views of New Zealand’s most charismatic bird, the kea.

However a University of Canterbury lecturer, Dr Ximena Nelson, said plants in New Zealand’s mountains are under threat as kea numbers continue to decline.

Dr Nelson said kea numbers were diminishing which could be bad news for about 12 percent of New Zealand’s alpine plants that rely on kea for seed dispersal.

``Kea are mischievous and lovable and also threatened, in part because we persecuted them for decades. From the late 1800s until 1971, the government placed a bounty on kea beaks. In the 1920s, the bounty was 10 shillings per beak, equating to $65 today.

``After an estimated 150,000 kea were killed, the wholesale bloodshed ended in a full protection for the species in 1986. However, kea sometimes do still fall foul of a bullet and now it is likely than there are considerably less than 5000 birds left.

``All of this was because of this birds’ powerful beak, which can occasionally cause a sheep’s death. However, this beak is not only destructive, but also has the power to give life,’’ Dr Nelson said.

Laura Young, a PhD student at UC, has also investigated the foraging behavior of kea and found that they spend a large proportion of their time eating fruit. New Zealand’s mountains have an unusually high proportion of fruit-bearing plants, making fruit an ideal food for the world’s only alpine parrot.

However, to maintain genetic viability the plants need to disperse their seeds and there are few remaining native species that may be able to do the job, Dr Nelson said.

Previously it had been assumed that like other parrots, the kea’s beak would make mincemeat of the seeds contained in the fruit that they eat, thereby contributing little to seed dispersal.

``Laura’s work showed that kea selected more fruiting species, consumed more fruit and dispersed more seeds than all other birds seen in the mountains combined. When she looked carefully at the seeds contained in hundreds and hundreds of kea faeces, she found that in fact almost all seeds were intact.

``Furthermore, kea are the only species that make frequent long-distance flights within and between mountain ranges. Hence, much of the effective long-distance dispersal of the alpine flora may be currently performed by kea.

``The fact that kea are able to ingest fruit and rarely crush seeds despite their powerful curved ‘parrot’ beak is noteworthy. These large birds can damage motor vehicles, buildings and signs, yet they can manipulate delicate items with considerable dexterity, providing another good reason to cherish these clever birds.’’

In addition to illegal hunting and pet trade activities, other major threats to kea populations include predation, competition for resources with introduced mammals and humans, lead poisoning and habitat degradation, Dr Nelson said.

Both Dr Nelson and Young are continuing research into kea, listed as a nationally endangered species.

Photos: UC’s Laura Young

and Ximena Nelson


Click for big version.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Employment: ANZ Proposes Casualisation In Whangarei Stores

ANZ workers in Whangarei could see their incomes drop by 20 to 40 percent if the bank’s proposal to reduce the number of full-time positions goes ahead says FIRST Union national organiser Tali Williams. More>>

Finance: BNZ Develops Specialist Tāmaki Māori Banking Team

BNZ develops specialist Tāmaki Māori Banking Team to support Māori as Auckland grows More>>

Pharmaceuticals: Commerce Commission To Consider Pharmaceuticals Merger

The Commerce Commission has received an application from Pfizer Inc. seeking clearance to acquire all of the shares in Hospira Inc. More>>

Real Estate: Housing Unaffordability Issues Spread

Surging house prices in Auckland and Queenstown last month pushed home ownership even further beyond the reach of first home buyers in the two districts, according to the AMP360 Home Loan Affordability Report for March. More>>

Statistics NZ: Annual Exports To China Dip Below Australia

The value of goods exports to Australia ($8.7 billion) surpassed those to China for the year ended March 2015, Statistics New Zealand said today. More>>

Science: Hookworm Discovery At Malaghan Institute

Professor Graham Le Gros has led a team which has stimulated both innate and memory responses to the parasite, discovering along the way the unexpected behaviour of one particular immune cell, in Hookworm, one of the world’s most devastating tropical ... More>>

Business: Provinces Urged To Make Full Use Of New Air Services

Provincial New Zealand has been urged to use new air services to Auckland or risk losing them either partially or completely. The stark warning was issued today by Far North mayor John Carter at a ceremony at Kaitaia airport to mark the final Air ... More>>

Mobile: 2degrees To Credit All Calls And SMS To Nepal

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal in the weekend, 2degrees will be crediting all calls and SMS messages made to mobiles and landlines in Nepal from Friday 24th April until midnight Wednesday 29th April. More>>

Scoop Business: Alex Swney Pleads Guilty To $2.5M Fraud Charge

Alex Swney, former chief executive of the Auckland city centre business association Heart of the City, has pleaded guilty to dishonestly using documents to obtain $2.5 million. More>>

ALSO:

Petrol Burns Prices: Second Consecutive Quarterly Fall For CPI

The consumers price index (CPI) fell 0.3 percent in the March 2015 quarter, following a 0.2 percent fall in the December 2014 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. The last time the CPI showed two consecutive quarterly falls was in the December 1998 and March 1999 quarters. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news