Our next meeting, which will also be our AGM, will be 2-5pm, Friday 14 September, at the DOC offices, Ngai Mahi Rd Sockburn.
Firstly, I’d like to thank ECan for contributing funds to BRaid to help keep the wheels spinning for another 12 months. I’d also like to that everyone who wrote letters of support endorsing our funding application to Lotto. Funding is something we never take for granted, as there are many excellent conservation programmes deserving of support but not many dollars to go around. At the recent PA2050 (Protected Areas 2050) conference, Lou Sanson, Director-General of DOC, commented that by 2050 he would like to see every business contributing to conservation as a pet of their business activities. I couldn’t agree more, which is why we value our partnerships with businesses such as Karikaas, Taggarts, Fulton Hogan, Wilkin Jets, and Amuri Jet. One of our core goals is to expand on those partnerships in the coming years, to help businesses integrate conservation into their business strategies.
The BRIDGE project
Braided rivers don’t conform to the definition of a ‘river’ under the RMA. This goes a long way to explaining why regulating activities on them has always been problematic. The second round of stakeholder meetings will be held next month in Waihao, Ahuriri, Waiau, and Ashburton with the aim of defining the boundaries of braided rivers. The end goal is to provide input to a Plan Change to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan so that braided river beds can be managed through RMA regulation. If you would like to attend one of these meetings, please contact Ian “Whit” Whitehouse (facilitator): Ian.Whitehouse@ecan.govt.nz.
Toolkit for assessing the natural character of braided rivers
One of the reasons why it’s been hard to define the boundaries of braided rivers so activities on them can be regulated is a lack of tools to, well, define them. This easy to follow ECan Technical Report includes clear criteria and working examples that will better enable the assessment of the existing character of braided rivers (and sections of braided rivers) and the degree to which they can be regarded as ‘natural’. Given recent field research, we now have a much better idea of the best management strategies to help braided river birds breed successfully (see ECan’s, ‘A quick guide to creating bird nesting islands’ see more on this below). It provides an objective (rather than the existing subjective) method of identifying optimal locations where management strategies could be implemented, and just as importantly, areas that are best avoided because they are likely to fail or not be cost-effective.
For anyone who teaches river studies, this tool should replace elements in the existing physical assessment toolkit for rivers, which have never been suitable for braided rivers.
Southern black-backed gull (SBBG)/karoro strategy
Some excellent points were raised at the July community meetings to discuss SBBGs. You can’t help (albeit grudgingly) admire a species that has so successfully adapted to human activities. Unfortunately, that success is coming at a cost to endemic birds, particularly braided river birds. The takeaway message from these meetings is a general understanding that SBBG numbers need to be controlled (no one is suggesting eradication), and that a communications /education strategy to engage the wider public is a vital part of the process. Mike Bell from Wildlife Management International Ltd (WMIL) is currently developing a draft management strategy that should be available later this month.
Extinction on demand?
We started a discussion in 2016, in public meetings and online, about the use of CRISPR gene-editing technology in conservation, to be used for the de-extinction of species. For example, bringing back moa, or buying us time to restore the habitats of species plunging towards extinction. The flip side of this tool is whether it should also be used to generically modify pest species like rats, possums, and stoats into (merciful) extinction?
I’ve just updated our calendar with the planned river bird surveys over the next few months (flick through the months to see them all). If you would like to assist or would like further information, please email the contact person listed on each of the pages.
Ashley Estuary trapping group
Following the mammoth trap-making effort earlier this year, the newly formed trap making group are already producing great results under the lead of Stuart Poore. It’s also great to see the next generation of trappers taking up the cause. Well done, everyone!
(PS: Thanks, Sandy for catching one of my bloopers: I’d misspelt my own name these past few newsletters!)
- Ashley Rakahuri Rivercare Group: Nick’s update on what’s happening down on the river
- Wrybill fledgeling success: the O Tu Wharekai programme reported progress with wrybill fledging success since they started their trapping programme in the upper Rangitata.
- The real population trend in black-billed gulls? In the latest Nortonis (not yet available online) Claudia Mischler, who undertook a (primarily aerial) survey of black-billed gulls in 2016/2017, reports that the number of breeding birds is higher than expected. Whether this is due to more accurate surveys rather than an actual increase in population, time (and another survey in 10 years) will tell.
- Nineteen years old and still looking good: this black-billed gull was banded as a chick in 1999
- The robust grasshopper (one of unique our braided river fauna)now has its own reserve!
- Cheap ‘plagiarised’ copies of DOC traps could be causing animals a slow death
- Intermittent rivers affect global CO2 emissions: UC researchers in the global study
- A report looking into the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) suggests it has failed numerous goals to protect the health of rivers and the environment
- As many of you will be aware, Ann-Kathrin Schlesselmann has been researching the effects of island formation on black-fronted terns on the lower Waitaki these past few years. The results have now been published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology
- New National Bird Monitoring Scheme: Wildlife Management International Ltd (WMIL) has been engaged to assist with the design and delivery of a new NBMS so that members to contribute to a national-scale scheme aimed at monitoring long-term trends in the distribution and abundance of birds
- Roundup: back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Three years ago, I reported on the paper in Chemical and Engineering News, (based on published research in the medical journal, Lancet and conclusions by the WHO that Roundup ‘was probably carcinogenic’). Following a landmark ruling against Monsanto, Eugene Sage has just asked the EPA to investigate.
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