Helping primary production and native biodiversity work together

  • Research assistant Stacey Bryan out in the field

    Research assistant Stacey Bryan out in the field

The humble tea bag is significant for researchers studying native biodiversity in agricultural landscapes – as a tool to measure how carbon is stored and processed in New Zealand farm ecosystems.

PhD students working on a project to understand and improve native biodiversity on sheep and beef farms are burying teabags beneath different kinds of vegetation such as pine trees, pasture and native scrub, then digging them up three months later to calculate how much tea has been decomposed. This illustrates how much the soil is decomposing – faster decomposition means more carbon is being released into the atmosphere, a key factor in terms of climate change.

Burying the teabags is just one method that a multidisciplinary team of researchers is using to understand the current state of native biodiversity on sheep and beef farms, and how biodiversity is perceived and managed by the New Zealand agricultural sector.

The team is being led by Associate Professor Hannah Buckley, of Auckland University of Technology, and Professor David Norton of the University of Canterbury. Their ultimate aim is to determine how native biodiversity can be managed in agricultural landscapes in a way that will benefit both farming and native biodiversity. The project feeds into the BioHeritage Challenge’s goal of protecting and restoring Aotearoa’s natural and primary production environments.

Bringing together biological scientists, social scientists, iwi, farmers, and local communities throughout the country, this research helps to fill the gaps in current knowledge regarding biodiversity conservation in agricultural systems.

The team is defining social, cultural and biophysical drivers of native biodiversity loss, retention and restoration on sheep and beef farms. They are quantifying native biodiversity values on farms, such as bird and plant diversity, and modelling the economic consequences of different biodiversity management scenarios for the farm business.

Scaling up the research using spatial modelling, the team aims to show how on-farm biodiversity management can help enhance biodiversity conservation across landscapes. This is particularly important as many of our iconic species, such as the native birds kererū and tui, use much larger areas of habitat than single farms.

The ultimate aim is to develop ways of helping farmers include biodiversity conservation in land management decision-making and farm management plans.

If the teabag pilot study is a success, the research team can combine this with other on-farm measurements of carbon storage and processes to estimate the amount of carbon stored on farms. These estimates will form the basis for modelling future carbon scenarios that are at a national scale.

The project is a collaboration between multi-disciplinary researchers from Auckland University of Technology, Canterbury University, AgResearch and the University of Auckland, together with Beef & Lamb NZ, QEII Trust, Landcare Trust, the Ministry for the Environment, Māori agribusiness and regional councils.

BioHeritage’s role is to break down barriers between organisations and individual scientists by coordinating and focusing the research of top scientists from our 18 Challenge Parties. The Parties working on this project are:

Norton DA, Butt J, Bergin DO. 2018. Upscaling restoration of native biodiversity: A New Zealand perspective. Ecological Management & Restoration. doi: 10.1111/emr.1231

Whats new?


« Previous      1      Next »


Farming and Nature Conservation August Newsletter
Farming and Nature Conservation August Newsletter

3 August 2018 - Whats new

This month we’re excited to show you the first fruits of our labour regarding all of the mapping…

Newsletter June 2018

3 August 2018 - Whats new

For the past two months we have been in writing and meeting modes here at Farming & Nature…

An example of large scale restoration. Image David Norton, University of Canterbury
Eight ways to improve native vegetation on private land

5 July 2018 - Whats new

Researchers have come up with eight recommendations on how New Zealanders can help increase the benefits they reap…

AUT Bachelor of Science student Ella Walmsley, left, and ecologist Davena Watkin bury tea bags on a remote Canterbury Farm.
Reading the tea leaves for climate change

8 June 2018 - Whats new

Reading the tea leaves has a taken a new twist, with tea bags being used to measure how…

Setting up tracking tunnels on our Ruapehu farm.
Newsletter April 2018

1 May 2018 - Whats new

As the summer has well and truly drawn to a close and many other projects are wrapping up…

Anoek Brugman helps to set up the first Tier 1 plot on our Ruapehu farm.
Newsletter February 2018

28 February 2018 - Whats new

The Farming & Nature Conservation team have been busy with field work over the past two months, making…

Research team viewing an “example farm”.
Newsletter December 2017

18 December 2017 - Whats new

We are excited to report that the project is well underway and already gaining great insight into biodiversity…


« Previous      1      Next »

Follow the team on social media

Twitter account #FarmNatCons
Facebook