Kaikōura's wetlands take one step forward

Our ecologist Helen Greenep has been working with landowners to identify wetlands with high ecological value around Kaikōura, as part of a push to protect and enhance wetlands throughout the district.

Wetlands would naturally have covered much of the Kaikōura Flats and supported rich ecosystems, but about 97% have been drained since the late 1800s. Some aerial wetland identification had previously been done, but Greenep says ground surveys can provide more accurate data.

Rare and vulnerable species located

By going in on foot, it is possible to form a more accurate picture of the wetlands. “Ground surveys allow us to work out which species are where,” she said. Recording vegetation patterns within wetlands, plus ongoing monitoring, helps to guide landowners’ future management decisions to maintain indigenous wetland values.

Greenep has recently ground-surveyed three sites in the Kaikōura District - the Nagari wetland, a site at the foot of Mt Fyffe and Lake Rotoiti. Her visits have revealed details that aerial surveys may not have picked up, for example that Manuka is the dominant species at the Mt Fyffe wetland with additional pockets of flaxes, sedges and other species. Ground-surveying also allows ecologists to locate rare or vulnerable species.

“We have found some really unusual native plants on these wetlands,” Greenep said.

“At the Mt Fyffe site we identified Sphagnum moss and Astelia grandis, which we hadn’t seen anywhere else in Kaikōura.”

Wider wetland protection benefits

Our Kaikōura Land Management and Biodiversity Advisor, Heath Melville, says gathering more detailed information and long-term monitoring could help with implementing effective strategies to protect wetland values. “We want to make sure ratepayers money is being spent effectively,” he said.

Wetlands bring several benefits to an area, for example supporting a variety of plants and pollinators. “Keeping bees on a wetland could work well,” Melville said. They also act as a natural filtration system and can help to minimize flooding on neighbouring land.

“It’s worth noting, however, that directing nutrient flows into wetlands may decrease their ecological values,” Melville said. Surveying gives a general overview and label to the wetland, based on its source, soil and hydrology. When run-off is directed into a wetland, the change in nutrients can be detrimental to species present. “These changes can decrease the viability of the wetland and downstream water bodies as habitat for freshwater species,” said Melville.

"One farm, one wetland" goal

This work is contributing to the “One farm, one wetland” goal in Kaikōura. Local landowners and managers who are interested in assistance or resources for protecting or enhancing wetlands on their property can get in touch with our Kaikōura office by calling 03 319 5781.

This story was written by Alice French and first appeared in the Kaikōura Star. It has since been edited.