Restoring dryland biodiversity through woody dominance
Dryland environments contain some of the most transformed, least protected and most threatened native ecosystems and species in New Zealand. A significant amount (>70%) of indigenous habitat has been lost, and only 1.9% of the zone is now legally protected.
Consequently, drylands contain an exceptionally high proportion of New Zealand's most threatened species. Although strongly modified from their original states, remaining dryland communities and species are of major significance, representing all that remains of a unique and diverse ecological zone and its potential for restoration.
In this research programme, we will aim at building an understanding of the ecology of dryland woody plant species (present distributions, succession pathways and rates, traits, and factors that control and limit their spread). We will apply this knowledge to develop and test low-input methods for facilitating indigenous woody plant succession in the field. The bird, lizard, invertebrate, and plant biodiversity associated with woody communities across the dryland zone will be surveyed and quantified, so that we can better understand benefits and drawbacks of woody succession, and predict some of the changes that will occur in indigenous communities as succession proceeds. Researchers will also work with partner agencies, communities and private landowners to improve understanding, protection and conservation management of dryland biodiversity.