International Day of Forests is a reminder to us of just how incredible forests really are.
Every year on the 21st of March we usually make a tremendous effort to celebrate the day, but this year, we were a little distracted.
Even though we are in lockdown in New Zealand we can still talk about the incredible role that plantation forests play in supporting the biodiversity of indigenous flora and fauna. We know that forests will continue supporting biodiversity whilst we are in our homes and we are looking forward to getting back among the trees.
Crown research institute SCION estimates that New Zealand’s 1.7 million hectares of planted forests are home to at least 120 threatened indigenous species. This means that OneFortyOne can play a critical role in supporting indigenous biodiversity, which is in decline across New Zealand.
OneFortyOne New Zealand has collected data as part of the “Biodiversity in Plantations” project in NZ Nature Watch, a national database where observations are stored, collated and shared.
The iNaturalist App is the international portal of NZ Nature Watch and is a user-friendly way of recording observations directly into the database when working in the field. This portal provides a practical means for those involved in the plantation forest industry to collate biodiversity records from their managed forests and create a national repository to which interested groups and organisations can contribute.
“There is no doubt that plantation forests provide excellent habitat for indigenous species, and that’s evidenced by what we have observed and recorded in the forest,” says OneFortyOne New Zealand’s Environmental Planner Heather Arnold. “Some species use the forests for feeding areas, some for nesting and some are using it as a corridor to get from A to B.
“Plantation forests provide habitat for kārearea for example. They love cut-over (the area where trees have been harvested) and we see more and more of them every day. Kea are regular visitors, and we’ve just had our first reports of kākā sightings. We have a population of powelliphanta snails (native New Zealand giant land snails – the largest species measures 9cm across) in our forests. Native bats have also been recorded as foraging in the forest areas and using the forest roads as access routes.”
OneFortyOne New Zealand issues a threatened species booklet to all its operational staff and contractors which lists the endangered indigenous species in New Zealand, what they look like and where they’re likely to be found. It covers bats, birds, fish, reptiles, invertebrates and all types of flora (from trees to moss).
“We encourage all staff and contractors to report sightings into iNaturalist, and we reconsider our operations if we come across something,” says Arnold. “If we intersect with nesting falcon for example, we will initially stop our operations and enforce a setback to allow them to get their chicks through to fledging stage. We take our responsibilities very seriously when managing our operations around indigenous species in the forest.
“As a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) certified company we are a responsible forest manager and part of that is managing our interface with threatened species. Our Environmental Management System is an ongoing journey, a living document. Our workplace teams are our greatest strength. Their unique understanding of the environment, their knowledge and their practical experience of what is acceptable practice, is what enables us to put all the science, legislation and expert advice to best effect.”
This month, the New Zealand Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB), which was out for public consultation until 14 March, called for a significant change in how we view indigenous biodiversity. This shift is appropriate, says Heather.
“Traditionally this hasn’t been well addressed at a national level, as people think that this is the job of the Department of Conservation. However, it’s very clearly outlined in the Resource Management Act that it’s the responsibility of local authorities to protect the habitat of fauna and flora. We are all responsible. We provide amazing habitat for indigenous flora and fauna that is not found in other land-based industries such as agriculture and horticulture. Plantation Forests have an important role to play in the survival of threatened species.”
Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/biodiversity/draft-national-policy-statement-indigenous-biodiversity