Researcher edits special issue of Pacific Conservation Biology journal

The special issue, edited by Associate Professor Heiko Wittmer from the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, focuses on why conserving biodiversity in urban environments is important and why it requires different, often new, approaches.

Heiko Wittmer looks off to the side of the camera holding up the cover of the special issue.

“To achieve conservation outcomes that can be seen and enjoyed by everyone, we need to start directing significant conservation efforts towards peopled landscapes,” says Associate Professor Wittmer. ”I consider myself very lucky to live in Wellington, a city that is at the forefront of such novel approaches to conservation, thanks to our progressive council, caring and informed citizens and opportunities associated with Zealandia, our inner-city nature reserve.”

The issue brought together scientists and conservation practitioners to explore three aspects associated with conservation in peopled landscapes: opportunities for conservation in densely populated and highly modified urban areas; challenges for invasive species control in urban areas; and stakeholder involvement for conservation action in protected areas.

Entitled ‘Conservation and Restoration in peopled landscapes in Oceania’ it includes seven research papers and a synthesis paper. Associate Professor Wayne Linklater, Dr Monica Gruber and Professor Phil Lester, all of whom are involved with the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, also contributed.

“These contributions provide rationale for directing greater conservation efforts towards areas inhabited by people while also highlighting challenges and how to avoid mistakes,” says Associate Professor Wittmer.

Beginning the issue with an editorial written from his perspective, Associate Professor Wittmer describes how he came to care about this particular area of conservation. He discusses how conservation in urban environments, like Wellington city, offers exciting opportunities that can have multiple benefits, for both the native species and the residents. He talks about the use of novel technologies, social media and citizen science, all of which could be utilised in these situations and the opportunities for society to enjoy and learn about this biodiversity.

However, despite the importance of urban conservation, Associate Professor Wittmer emphasises that there is still a lot of research needed in this area, which is why he gladly agreed to edit the special issue.

Contributions from members of the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology

Conservation and restoration in the peopled landscapes in Oceania: opportunities and challenges

Associate Professor Wittmer and co-authors synthesised information from a number of different case studies around Oceania to highlight that conservation in urban environments will require different, often novel approaches. They suggest that this kind of conservation offers great opportunities for community involvement in all aspects of the planning and implementation. They also emphasise using the best available ecological and social evidence to avoid potential negative outcomes.

Wildlife conflict in urban areas–a case study involving kaka

Led by Associate Professor Linklater, this case study of kākā in Wellington city highlights the emerging conflict amongst residents over the reintroduction and increasing abundance of the native parrot. This conflict could negatively influence resident’s attitudes to the species and to biodiversity conservation in general. Solutions will require that conservationists become more inclusive of the diversity of the public’s values.

Multi-pronged decision making for invasive species control: a case study of yellow crazy ants in Atafu, Tokelau

Dr Gruber is the lead author of a research paper that assessed the effects of the invasive yellow crazy ants in Atafu, Tokelau. The research suggested that yellow crazy ants negatively affected other ant communities, and caused concern to people. It also found that they negatively affected white tern productivity, though other factors may influence this, such as human activity and rat abundance. Based on this research, a control programme was implemented.