Written by: Juniper Sprengers-Sanson
Ko te whenua te waiu mo nga uri whakatipu
“Our land and resources provide the sustenance for our future generations” 1
In my younger days I imagined New Zealand forests with beautiful green trees paired with the sound of birds chirping and swishing through the air. Sadly this is an image that has remained in my imagination ever since. After human arrival in New Zealand, it was estimated that ⅓ of bird species had become extinct due to habitat destruction, predation and hunting2. This places New Zealand at the top of the list for highest extinction rate in the world3. Out of the 287 bird species that managed survival, 70 are considered threatened according to the IUCN red list4. Mammalian predators are now one of the biggest threats to bird survival in New Zealand1. The government has set up a vision to be predator-free by 2050 to help restore the state of our native species setting a base for many regional and district goals for the upcoming years.
Predator free Miramar is a volunteer project aiming to eradicate mice and rats from the Miramar Peninsula in Wellington through the use of citizen science5. This allows people to volunteer to have traps set in their backyards to catch the last remaining predators in this suburb. Citizen science includes the involvement of the public to collect data and think scientifically about the state of our native species6. In residential areas citizen participation in predator trapping can be very important for promoting biodiversity in these urban areas5.
Benefits of Citizen science have been shown tremendously in previous ecological restoration projects. These benefits include financial, social and environmental advantages. The Bird Atlas of New Zealand 2007 was produced using 31,817 field forms by 850 individuals. The estimated value of this work totaled around $10 million dollars7. The economic value of having citizens involved in these projects can be financially beneficial for our government and councils. Not only is this a chance to save the environment but also improve scientific and ecological knowledge whilst getting involved in community activities.
In New Zealand there are an estimated 600 environmental community groups 8. These groups are providing platforms for sharing ideas based around predator- free NZ and help spread the word about the state of our native species. With more people getting involved this creates a wave of interest and conversation about our natural environment. This leads to a boost on the rate at which we can reach goals to become predator-free NZ by 2050. The main issue with this sort of environmental monitoring is that data outcomes of these projects can be hard to find due to gaps in data collection. But with the support of government agencies there is huge potential for citizen projects to reach a national-level of monitoring in the future.
Citizen involvement in these schemes can make huge impacts on our conservation outcomes. If you are interested in getting involved in Predator-free Miramar you can make contact through the groups Facebook Predator Free Miramar Public Group or Predator free NZ community map to find a community group near you.
1. Ministry for the Environment. (2017). Iwi, Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi. Retrieved 12th March, 2020, from: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/about-us/iwi-māori-and-treaty-waitangi
2. Innes, J., Kelly, D., Overton, J. M., & Gillies, C. (2010). Predation and other factors currently limiting New Zealand forest birds. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 34(1), 86.
3. Predator free Wellington. (2020). Miramar 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2020, from: https://www.pfw.org.nz/miramar-2019/
4.Clout, M. N., & Russell, J. C. (2006). The eradication of mammals from New Zealand islands. Assessment and Control of Biological Invasion Risks’.(Eds F. Koike, MN Clout, M. Kawamichi, M. De Poorter and K. Iwatsuki.) pp, 127-141.
5. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2011). Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, poisons and silent forests. Wellington: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
6. Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Phillips, T., & Bonney, R. (2007). Citizen science as a tool for conservation in residential ecosystems. Ecology and Society, 12(2).
7. Peters, M. (2016). Conservation of native fauna in highly invaded systems: managing mammalian predators in New Zealand. Restoration Ecology, 24(6), 816–820. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.12376
8. Peters, M. A., Hamilton, D., Eames, C., Innes, J., & Mason, N. W. (2016). The current state of community-based environmental monitoring in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 40(3), 279-288.