The Nina Valley Ecoblitz

Hundreds if not thousands of people headed towards the Liffey domain in Lincoln on the 3rd and 4th of April, 2009. A number of scientists including the famous TV “Bugman” (Ruud Kleinpaste) set the scene for Lincoln Primary kids with talks at the school on Friday afternoon, so by after school when the event started at 3.15 half the school children and many of their parents were ready to follow Ruud along the stream to collect bugs. He was like the Pied Piper of Hamlin with a crowd of children following him with more joining as the ever increasing group made their way along the stream bank. Over the 24 hours the large team of scientists from Lincoln University and Landcare Research took groups of people to look for specific types of living things as well as manned the microscopes to identify the samples that the public brought in. There were also many talks and displays, all on the theme of biodiversity.

The BioBlitz at Lincoln’s Liffey Stream, organised by The Lincoln Envirotown Trust, found an amazing 1642 different kinds of life, almost half of them species of bacteria. That’s a lot of things for a small stretch of stream side in a small rural town. They included many surprises, including a native flatworm that had not been recorded in over a hundred years, a European fungus of acorns never before collected in New Zealand, a Banks Peninsula endemic spider usually found in forests, and two unidentified endemic earthworms.

While most of the little creepy-crawlies like mites and spiders were native species, plants and fungi they crawled on were mostly wild exotic species. 20% of the plants were native but most of these have been recently planted. Of the wild (self-propagated) plant species found, only 9% were native. This is a reflection of the massive transformation to the flora that has occurred on the Canterbury Plains in the past two centuries. It is promising that some natives have been recently planted back into the area. There is great potential for improvement.

Most birds were also wild exotics (the “non-wild” exotics were recent escapes such as a canary), a reflection of how much the Canterbury Plains has changed. Only three of New Zealand’s native land birds were found in the area: one singing bellbird, a grey warbler, and several fantails. There was a surprise sighting of a white heron. Similarly, none of the butterfly species unique to New Zealand were found. Only the European cabbage white butterfly and North American monarch butterfly were present.

While it is sad that the proportion of natives seems to be small, the efforts by the locals to increase the planting of natives and so to increase the suitable habitat for native animals is encouraging. Perhaps a future Bioblitz will show a big increase in natives.