Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Conditions and trends of ecosystem services – an update

John Dymond, Anne-Gaelle Ausseil and Alexander Herzig have recently completed a tour of North Island regional councils where they presented results from their assessment of conditions and trends of ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services for multiple outcomes” is a 4-year programme characterising and mapping ecosystems and providing suggestions for how these should be dealt with and services implemented at policy level.

Managing for multiple ecosystem services uses current information on the state of ecosystem services to assess potential and actual trade-off in the management of these services. These trade-offs are being further explored with the use of two catchment-scale case studies from the Manawatu and Canterbury.

Key findings of the research to-date are:

  • Nitrate inputs to freshwater are increasing in Canterbury, West Coast, and Southland, and decreasing in Manawatu-Wanganui, Northland, Bay of Plenty, and Auckland. Elsewhere there is little change over the past 20 years (Figure 1).
  • Agricultural greenhouse gases have increased in the last 20 years in Waikato, Canterbury, Southland, and Otago due to increase in animal numbers (Figure 2).
  • There is a continued loss in indigenous vegetation: only 28% of original indigenous forest remains in New Zealand, 51 000 ha have been lost in the last 20 years; 43% of tussock grasslands remains, with 71 000 ha lost in the last 20 years; 10% of New Zealand’s original wetlands remains, with proof of continued loss in the last ten years.
  • 0.5% of high-class land has been urbanised in the last 20 years. 10% of high-class land is presently occupied by lifestyle blocks.
  • Landscapes can be configured differently to optimise ecosystem services using the Land Use Management Support System (LUMASS) tool. LUMASS finds the optimal spatial configuration for a set of land uses, with a set of criteria. These criteria can, for example be “minimising nitrate leaching” maximising carbon sequestration”, or a combination of these.

John Dymond says councils need to know the conditions and trends of ecosystem services because they are the policy agencies primarily responsible for ecosystem services. The results of this research are also useful to land planners, scientists and land managers. “Policy analysts and land planners will use the results to determine whether past policies need changing to protect or enhance ecosystem services. Managers of environmental projects can use the data and models developed to better assess the results of planned environmental work, such as soil conservation schemes.”

The feedback from the regional councils was positive, with interest in accessing the maps to report on the state of ecosystem services in their region, and interest in the models to monitor progress for soil conservation programmes and planning purposes.

John Dymond, Anne-Gaelle Ausseil & Alex Herzig