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Science project reveals what's living on the land in Wellington

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Environmental scientists have wrapped up year five of a project which allows changes in plant, bird and pest species to be accurately monitored and gives insight on how to create a healthier Wellington region.

A Greater Wellington Regional Council environmental science team has established permanent monitoring sites on an 8km by 8km grid where they can see any positive or negative changes occurring in the environment.

Greater Wellington senior environmental monitoring officer Barrett Pistoll says this ongoing project means there is now a baseline of information to work from.

"We will begin again next year with re-measurements and should be able to see, for the first time, how the different terrestrial environments in the region are changing.

"We will be able to see this in a number of ways, for example whether the exotic scrub is succeeding to native forest and providing better habitat or whether production grasslands are more hampered by pests.

"In some instances our monitoring may be able to affect management decisions such as pest control, particularly when sites fall in public or regional council lands," Barrett explains.

There are a total of 126 plots covering the region - 91 of which are monitored by Greater Wellington. These sites cover land types such as exotic grasslands, urban parkland, wetlands, and exotic and native forests.

Thirty-five of these sites are monitored by either the Ministry for the Environment for national carbon accounting, or Department of Conservation (DOC) who monitor plots on Crown land.

This year, the environmental science team discovered some pleasant surprises. "We found a few at risk plants - two with national threat classifications were Teucrium Parvifolium and Coprosma Virescens," Barrett says.

While many of the plots are on private land, Barrett says this year the majority of land owners have been keen to allow the project to go ahead and have shown interest in what is on their property.

Greater Wellington environment committee chair Sue Kedgley says it is fantastic to see the success of this programme and to discover what is living on our land.

"We are now able to track the state of the environment far more effectively than ever before. This programme is a great source of information for the whole region," Cr Kedgley says.

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