TOSSI - Appreciating biodiversity

By: Jackie Russell

There is plenty of debate about climate change and often we struggle to identify how we can make a difference, but there are tangible ways we can have an impact. Biodiversity has the power to mitigate the progress of climate change and conversely it is greatly affected by climate change. Don’t take my word for it. Watch David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet and consider if the distinguished 94-year-old natural historian is on to something.

At Tāwharanui, hundreds of farsighted volunteers aim to reverse some of our Earth’s slashed environment by contributing thousands of hours to restore a small portion of Aotearoa. Ultimately, volunteering at the open sanctuary nurtures the biodiversity of Aotearoa by making people aware that an abundance of birds, bugs and bush were here before people. We lost many species when people arrived with four-legged mammalian predators that sniffed out New Zealand’s unsuspecting native fauna and ate them, their eggs and their progeny.

The changes at Tāwharanui demonstrate that the destiny of our native and endemic birds is in our hands and the inescapable solution is to eradicate introduced predators. Many volunteers aspire to what could be and give their time to educate others about eradicating pests, both in the sanctuary, around its perimeter and in suburbia. A rat in your backyard is a prolific breeder and before you know it, the offspring will be looking for native birds, eggs, chicks and bugs for its sustenance.

Global enthusiasm for felling trees and clearing bush can be slightly reversed by regenerating carbon dioxide absorbing native flora that also creates valuable biodiverse ecosystems. Volunteers collect local native seeds, germinate them, prick out seedlings, pot them and plant them to regenerate native bush with unique genetics that boost the sanctuary’s biodiversity. Mānuka and kānuka are the forest’s first colonisers, providing a habitat for other native plants and food source trees like puriri, karamu, māhoe and harakeke, which feed rare birds relocated to Tāwharanui. When a volunteer first encountered a kiwi at Tāwharanui, she knew her work was making a difference, especially as unmanaged kiwi populations are declining by two per cent every year. During the middle of winter she was kiwi spotting around the sand dunes and a big fat healthy kiwi casually wandered past, which gave her a buzz for days. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world” and make 2021 your year for biodiversity.

Jackie Russell, TOSSI


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