Peter Bellingham

Peter Bellingham

Te Tohu Taiao Award Presentation

Peter Bellingham is a plant ecologist, who works at Landcare Research (a government research institute) in Lincoln, near Christchurch, New Zealand.  His research has focused on long-term (decadal) dynamics in forests and effects of disturbances such as hurricanes and earthquakes.  He has a long-standing interest in the ecological consequences of biological invasions, and the interactions between biological invasions and natural disturbance, above- and below-ground.  He also has a research focus on the ecological restoration of island and coastal ecosystems, often working with the Māori communities that own them.  He has been involved in the development and implementation of inventory and monitoring systems for terrestrial biodiversity for New Zealand’s national and international reporting and for evaluating the effectiveness of policy and management.  Most of his research has been carried out in New Zealand, but he has also conducted studies in Jamaica, Japan, Puerto Rico, Tonga, and Australia.

How well is New Zealand doing in reporting the state and trends of its biodiversity?

New Zealand is a global biodiversity hotspot with high endemism (e.g., 85% of the vascular flora). Its biodiversity is under pressure from biological invasions, land use changes, and climate change. Central and regional government agencies in New Zealand have developed terrestrial biodiversity indicators in response to national and international requirements to report status and trends in biodiversity. Since 2011, concurrent measurements of indicators of plant communities, bird communities, and of some non-native mammals have been implemented across 8.6 million ha (one-third of New Zealand’s land area, public land designated for conservation) at sample points located systematically at the intersections of an 8-km × 8-km grid superimposed across New Zealand. A current challenge is to extend implementation of terrestrial biodiversity indicators across private land, including agricultural landscapes, plantation forests, and urban ecosystems. The same indicators used on public conservation land have been implemented since 2014 in one region. New environmental-DNA-based indicators of belowground biodiversity and plant communities have been implemented. Results of state and trends in components of biodiversity will be presented. There is general agreement for evidence-based decisions and a stated need for better information about trends in biodiversity in New Zealand. Current efforts span multiple agencies and the research community and this talk will also address the need for coordination and sustainability of current efforts.