Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Naturally Uncommon Ecosystems

To date, 72 types of naturally uncommon ecosystems have been identified as occurring in New Zealand. These pages provide information about each system, including a detailed definition of the ecosystem, photographs, summaries of notable flora, fauna and current threats, and links to key references and useful information resources.

The rationale for this list, and the list  itself, can be found in: 

Williams PA, Wiser S, Clarkson B, Stanley MC 2007. New Zealand's historically rare terrestrial ecosystems set in a physical and physiognomic framework. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 31: 119-128.

Naturally uncommon ecosystems contribute disproportionately to national biodiversity, yet prior to this publication were poorly recognised and managed. These ecosystems typically arise due to unusual environmental conditions, are mostly small (<1 to 1000 ha) and non-forested, and often support unique biodiversity. Their rarity means they are poorly understood, often threatened, and not distinguished in national-scale land cover classifications.

These systems would have naturally occurred over a small area in the absence of human activity and have previously been termed historically rare, originally rare, or naturally rare. The term naturally uncommon is preferred as it equates with the New Zealand Threat Classification System developed for threatened species. The threat class for each life-form is based on papers listed in:

Hitchmough R. 2013. Summary of changes to the conservation status of taxa in the 2008–11 New Zealand Threat Classification System listing cycle. New Zealand Threat Classification Series (Web) no.1

and subsequent publications. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s ecosystem red-list criteria were used to derive a threat status for each ecosystem, which is listed on each page and can be found in:

Holdaway RJ, Wiser SK, Williams PA 2012. Status assessment of New Zealand's naturally uncommon ecosystems. Conservation Biology 26: 619–629.

An overview of naturally uncommon ecosystems in New Zealand can be found in:

Wiser SK, Buxton RP, Clarkson BR, Hoare RJB, Holdaway RJ, Richardson SJ, Smale MC, West C, Williams PA 2013. New Zealand’s naturally uncommon ecosystems. In Dymond JR ed. Ecosystem services in New Zealand – conditions and trends. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln, New Zealand. Pp. 49–61.

These naturally uncommon ecosystems fall into six categories:

It is hoped these pages will raise awareness of their character and extent, and provide conservation managers and policymakers with a resource to facilitate their efforts to reverse the decline and degradation of these important elements of New Zealand’s natural heritage. The typology has been adopted by the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation as part of their national priorities for biodiversity protection.

These web pages are a work in progress.  If you find any errors or omissions, or have better photographs please contact us (send email to Susan Wiser) and let us know.