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

 

Maritime: Navigation Safety Review Raises Big Issues For The Govt

Shipping Federation: "The reports makes it clear that the ratification of the Maritime Labour convention (MLC) is long overdue. Only when the MLC is ratified will Maritime NZ be able to inspect and enforce the labour conditions on international ships visiting our ports." More>>

ALSO:

100 Years After Einstein Prediction: Gravitational Waves Found

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos. More>>

ALSO:

Farming: Alliance Plans To Start Docking Farmer Payments

Alliance Group, New Zealand's second-largest meat cooperative, plans to start withholding some stock payments to its farmers from next week to bolster its balance sheet and force suppliers to meet their share requirements. More>>

ALSO:

Gambling: SkyCity First Half Profit Rises 30%, Helped By High Rollers

SkyCity anticipates the Auckland business will benefit from government gaming concessions which were triggered on Nov. 11 in recognition of SkyCity’s $470 million Convention Centre development. Morrison said the concessions would allow the Auckland business to lift its activity during peak period, noting it had a record revenue week over the Christmas and New Year period. More>>

ALSO:

Money For Light: Kiwi Scientists Secure Preferential Access To Synchrotron

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced a three-year investment of $2.8 million in the Australian Synchrotron, the largest piece of scientific infrastructure in the Southern Hemisphere, to secure preferential access for Kiwi scientists. More>>

Telco Industry Report: Investment Hits $1.7 Bln A Year

Investment in the telecommunications sector is $1.7 billion a year, proportionately one of the highest levels in the OECD, according to a report released today on the status of the New Zealand sector. More>>

ALSO:

PGPs: New Programme Sets Sights On Strong Wool

A new collaboration between The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), announced today, aims to deliver premiums for New Zealand's strong wool sector... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news