Review of current vegetation monitoring on privately protected land under ongoing economic use (grazing)
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
There has been a noticeable shift in focus in biodiversity research in New Zealand over recent decades. Research has traditionally focused on biodiversity protection on the public estate, which was comprised primarily of ecosystems with lower productive potential (generally over 500m asl). Private lands generally have higher production potential and are often used for intensive cultivation and agricultural practices. They still however have significant potential for protecting biodiversity values. One of the key tools for protecting biodiversity values on privately owned lands in the Canterbury region are through legally binding QEII open space covenants and there is significant potential through industry certifications.
QEII covenants are placed on the land in perpetuity and provide legally binding protection for biodiversity or landscape values within the covenant. This protection is voluntary and allows the land owner to continue to use the land for economic benefit providing it does not prove detrimental to biodiversity through monitoring outcomes. Case studies of QEII covenants that contain grazing clauses in the Canterbury region were used to determine what values are present and what monitoring is occurring in the field within these ecosystems. Photopoints and informal visual monitoring were the primary methods used by the QEII representatives to monitor vegetation in all of the covenants.
Monitoring forms a critical feedback for all biodiversity protection. It is especially important to have an accurate feedback on vegetation condition and change from monitoring on properties that are grazed. Monitoring needs to be capable of providing sufficient information on vegetation change on these sites so that the most suitable grazing levels can be obtained by land managers. This thesis focuses on monitoring methods to ensure that this feedback is suitable and that the methods are cost effective.
Current vegetation monitoring techniques were reviewed to determine which methods would be most suited to monitoring in these ecosystems where resources are tightly restricted and observers may not have existing skills and experience in monitoring these ecosystems. Methods reviewed were quadrats, transects, height-frequencies, photopoints, needle point, biomass, tagged plants, visual rank and remote sensing. Each method is described and then assessed on its suitability for monitoring tussock shrublands, with cost effectiveness being an important criterion. Of these methods quadrats, transects and height-frequencies were the most robust but also the most intensive and least cost effective methods. Visual rank, needle point and photopoints were the most cost effective, but are generally suited to monitoring single objectives. In most cases a combination of methods would be ideal to suit the objectives of the monitoring. QEII photopoint monitoring should follow guidelines more closely and include more complimentary information with their photographs. Clear monitoring objectives should be developed for every covenant that is grazed and these need to be determined before it is possible to accurately select appropriate monitoring methods. These objectives will also provide the monitoring program with more structure and direction. If possible a detailed management plan for each grazed covenant would be beneficial for values present. QEII are in a unique position, where they have the potential to develop a data base of biodiversity information for private land and contribute to other projects like the National Vegetation Survey (NVS).