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Current state of New Zealand’s biodiversity
Biodiversity in New Zealand
What Is Biodiversity?
Why We Value Biodiversity
Current State
:: Hunting
:: Habitat Destruction
:: Pests and Weeds

New Zealand has a unique native biodiversity, but it is in serious decline. Left alone, these bird-dominated islands would have continued to depart from the evolutionary mainstream, but of course, this was not to be. Instead, the arrival of humans had a major impact.

New Zealand has experienced two major influxes of humans – first the Maori, then Europeans. Between 750 and 1000 years ago, Polynesian mariners – the ancestors of Maori – arrived and introduced rats (kiore) and dogs (kuri). The second human influx came from Europe, led by Captain James Cook in 1769 (who at the time released rats, pigs and goats).

Although New Zealand was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans, it has one of the worst records of native biodiversity loss. Fire, land clearance, overexploitation of resources, and introduced plants and animals have had a cumulative effect on native biodiversity. As a result dozens of species have become extinct and an increasing number are now threatened with extinction.

Extinctions include:

  • 32 per cent of endemic land and freshwater birds, including the magnificent Harpogornis moorei, Haast’s eagle
  • three of 64 reptile species
  • possibly 11 of the 2300 known vascular plants

About 800 of New Zealand’s known animal, plant and fungi species and 200 subspecies are considered threatened. It is likely that many still unknown species are also threatened.

The pressures on biodiversity have taken three forms:

  • Hunting – hunting, fishing and gathering.
  • Habitat destruction – removing forests, draining wetlands, fragmenting and degrading ecosystems.
  • Pests and weeds – introduced organisms that prey on, or compete with, native species, or degrade their habitat.

Rat attacking fantail at nest.
Rat attacking fantail at nest.


Native mistletoe under threat from introduced browsing animals.

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