A new Department of Conservation (DOC) action plan tackles the impacts of climate change on New Zealand’s biodiversity and DOC managed infrastructure including tracks, huts and cultural heritage.
Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage says extreme weather events around the country have really brought home our vulnerability to changing weather patterns.
“The Southland floods in February resulted in the closure of two Great Walks. Seventy-eight DOC tracks were damaged or inaccessible. DOC also lost over 500 predator traps in the area,” said Eugenie Sage.
“In recent months parts of the North Island have experienced some of the most severe drought conditions on record, putting native species under considerable stress and restricting the ability of kiwi to forage for food and water.”
DOC’s new climate change adaptation action plan sets out a long-term strategy to identify the best actions for adapting to climate change. This involves assessments of ecosystems and infrastructure vulnerable to climate change impacts, and the extent of that vulnerability.
“With a warming climate, pests such as rats and wasps are likely increase in numbers and extend their ranges, creating more of a problem for native species,” Eugenie Sage said.
“Climate change impacts will put even more pressure on small, but important native species populations already struggling for survival.
“The threatened, genetically distinct alpine galaxias population found only in the upper Manuherikia river in Central Otago is already under pressure from introduced salmonid species and rising temperatures. This tiny population could be wiped out by storms or droughts.”
Adaptation options for biodiversity include pest control measures to take pressure off threatened species and increase their resilience, avoiding translocating threatened species to areas vulnerable to climate change impacts, and protecting coastal species by restoring natural defences against coastal flooding.
“DOC managed tracks and other assets along New Zealand’s coast will become increasingly vulnerable to high tides and storm surges resulting from climate change,” Eugenie Sage said.
“The Heaphy Track’s coastal section has already suffered significant storm surge damage in the past few years. Ongoing sea level rise will result in even more damage to tracks and bridges, and expensive repair and adaptation work.”
Options to reduce the risk to recreational assets could involve redesigning them so they are suitable for future climate conditions and building new structures away from high risk areas.
“Coastal heritage sites, including significant wāhi tapu are also vulnerable to climate change impacts,” said Eugenie Sage.
“Wairau Bar in Marlborough and Kaitorete Spit in Canterbury both have significant Māori archaeological values at risk from sea level rise. DOC will work closely with Treaty Partners on the most appropriate adaptation options to protect these and other sites sacred to Māori.
“With over 1,000 long-term concession-holders operating on public conservation land and waters, adaptation measures will support these New Zealand businesses to increase their resilience to future climate conditions.
“We know it’s more efficient, cost-effective and safer to act now and plan ahead. This action plan will embed climate change adaptation in the way DOC does business.
“By understanding the impacts of climate change on our biodiversity and built environment, and taking action to adapt, we will help to ensure our wildlife and wild places are sustained for the next generation,” said Eugenie Sage.