Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Land Environments of New Zealand (LENZ)

Land Environments of New Zealand (LENZ) is a new and innovative quantitatively-based classification of New Zealand's terrestrial environments that assists biodiversity conservation and natural resources management at all levels throughout New Zealand.

LENZ (Land Environments of New Zealand) is an environmental classification intended to underpin a range of conservation and resource management issues. LENZ was originally envisioned as a framework for conservation management that would take advantage of the natural relationship between the environment and species distributions. Rather than occurring randomly, species tend to occur in areas having similar environmental conditions. As a consequence, similar environments tend to support similar groups of plants and animals, provided they have not been substantially modifed by human activity.

LENZ capitalises on the species-environment relationships by identifying climatic and landform factors likely to influence the distribution of species. LENZ uses these factors to define a landscape classification that groups together sites that have similar environmental conditions. Such a classification can then be used to indicate sites likely to have similar potential ecosystem character - not necessarily the same in all respects but likely to have similar groups of species and similar biological interactions and processes.

One major advantage of this approach, as opposed to directly mapping land cover for example, is its ability to predict the potential character of sites where natural ecosystems have been substantially modified (e.g. by land clearance or fire) or replaced by introduced plants and animals (e.g. pests and weeds).

Although LENZ was originally envisioned as a tool for biodiversity management, it has a much wider application. This is because the environmental factors that control the distributions of many land based plants and animals (temperature, water supply, availability of nutrients, etc.) are also factors that provide major constraints on human land uses such as agriculture, horticulture, and forestry.

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