In conjunction with key partners we undertake monitoring of flora and fauna including predator populations to assess the impacts of 1080.
Understanding the impact of introduced species and measures to control them is essential to restoring the biodiversity of the area.
Victoria University of Wellington with funding from TBfree NZ is assessing the impacts of 1080 by monitoring birds, insects, and vegetation in the Aorangi Forest, as well as rodent and mustelid predator populations.
Part of this work is the assessment of birdsong before and after 1080 drops, which negates the suggestion that 1080 leads to reductions in native bird populations.
Monitoring in 2016 also identified the presence of an as-yet unclassified species of forest gecko.
In August 2014, TBfree NZ, the Department of Conservation, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Aorangi Restoration Trust combined to protect native flora and fauna by aerially dropping 1080 poison with deer repellent in the Aorangi Forest Park and its surrounds to control possums, rodents and mustelids. This was the first of three aerial drops of 1080 planned over 10 years.
Key in using 1080 is to monitor its effectiveness in eliminating pests and its impact on native fauna and flora. This involves monitoring before and after 1080 drops to determine changes in abundance of species that may be attributed to the 1080.
Victoria University of Wellington is contracted by TBFree NZ to monitor the impacts of 1080, in particular its impacts on native birds and invertebrates. This researched is led by Dr Stephen Hartley and involves numerous postgraduate students. Every year 2-3 summer research scholars, funded by the Aorangi Restoration Trust and/or the university, are chosen to assist with the research. Read more about the 2015-16 summer research scholars below.
The main areas of research are:
Changes in abundance and recovery of pest species
The impacts of 1080 on native bird species.
Does the forest go silent after a 1080 drop?
The impacts of 1080 on invertebrates, with special emphasis on Weta populations.
The research involves monitoring six sites in the Aorangi Forest Park and two sites in the Remutaka Range which are used as reference sites. The Remutaka reference sites are also treated with 1080 but at different times, providing a valid comparison with the Aorangi sites for changes in wildlife abundance. We use chew cards, tracking tunnels and wax tags to monitor pest abundance. Bird recorders and observations are used to monitor native birds, while pitfall traps and Weta hotels are used to monitor invertebrates.
Each site involves two days’ work. The first is used to distribute or activate the monitoring equipment which is either left out overnight or for three nights depending on the time of year. On day 2 we collect the equipment and results. These are then taken back to the lab where we collate and analyse the data. Many hours of work!
By Nancy Collis
I would highly recommend this scholarship to anyone looking for a way to spend their whole summer outdoors! As summer research scholars it has been our role to continue monitoring Aorangi and Remutaka Forests at 8 sites first established in 2012 by Victoria University. Monitoring has involved a number of different methods, including passive tracking devices (e.g. tracking tunnels, chew cards, wax tags, bird recorders etc), and active traps (e.g. pitfall traps for invertebrates, some of which were baited with squid).
I was able to learn about New Zealand’s bush and birds, not only through my own research, but also by collaborating with passionate and knowledgeable people along the way. The role allowed us some lab time, during which I identified footprints on tracking cards, biting marks on chew cards and quantified seed-fall samples collected in mast and non-mast years. Collating this information helped me to understand the controls needed to limit pest populations. It was interesting to gain an insight into the relative abundances of rats, mice, possums, mustelids, and hedgehogs.
A personal highlight of the scholarship was exploring the picturesque and diverse forest of Waiorongomai in the Remutaka Forest Park and Bull Hill in the Aorangi Forest Park. We were able to see a number of endemic species, in particular a large number of kereru and burrowing sign in some tree trunks from the puriri moths (NZ’s largest moth, that can live up to 5 years as a caterpillar and once metamorphosis takes place they only live a mere 2 days as a moth). We have also had a few very rare and special sightings of Riflemen, New Zealand's smallest bird. Avid bird watchers travel from all over the world to hopefully view one of these birds due to the species being the oldest living ancestor of all songbirds. One sighting involved seeing 10 of these rare birds all together.
On behalf of Sean and me, I would like to thank the Aorangi Restoration Trust and Victoria University for contributing to our summer scholarships. We really appreciate having this opportunity and have thoroughly enjoyed it. We hope future summer scholars enjoy the experience as much as we have.