All over New Zealand, there is a huge groundswell of interest in pest control for biodiversity protection. Small, isolated patches may not provide enough habitat to allow native species to survive in perpetuity, but a coordinated approach across tenures could develop ‘metapopulations’ at a landscape scale. (A metapopulation is a group of spatially separated but interacting populations of the same species). Hence local community groups, DOC, regional councils, large and small businesses and research providers all have a role to play.
Recently Wendy Ruscoe, Al Glen (both Landcare Research at Lincoln) and their colleagues began work with the Robertson Foundation Aotearoa, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, and Department of Conservation to set up the Wide-Scale Predator Control Project. This aims to apply ‘metapopulation’ management over a scale of tens of thousands of hectares in the Maungaharuru-Tutira Area. The project considerably expands on DOC’s initiatives in the Boundary Stream Mainland Island (BSMI), which has had pest control for 15 years. Bellbird Bush and Opouahi Reserve nearby, as well as many smaller privately-owned blocks in Hawkes Bay also provide protected native habitat but are separated from BSMI by unprotected agricultural land.
Populations of native species including kiwi, kokako, North Island robin, and Hawkes Bay tree weta persist in BSMI but are constantly under threat of predation by invading pest animals. The threat of predation is especially intense when native animals attempt to move between these protected areas. Wendy and colleagues will determine whether the level of predator control implemented across the pastoral landscape is sufficient for a suite of native species (birds, reptiles and insects) to make more effective use of the network of native forest remnants. They also plan to determine if fragments close to BSMI show a more rapid response than isolated fragments. Models of connectivity between patches will help managers and community groups decide where and when to carry out landscape-scale pest control within limited budgets.