Norton2021_NativeBiodiversity.pdf (1.3 MB)

Native biodiversity and regenerative agriculture in New Zealand

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posted on 2024-06-21, 04:03 authored by David Norton
Five farming practices are highly likely to increase native bird abundance and native vegetation in New Zealand, finds this report. The five key practices for implementing biodiversity conservation that could be adopted by people who farm in New Zealand, and which fit with the regenerative farming philosophy, are: 1. Think about how native biodiversity might be on your farm in future. 2. Clearly identify the factors that are currently limiting or threatening native biodiversity now, and that may do so in future, as you seek to achieve your goals. 3. Take a spatial approach to farm planning that is not constrained by the current farm layout. 4. Implement adaptive biodiversity management at multiple scales across the whole farm. 5. Continually monitor biodiversity outcomes and use this as the basis to refine management. The report also provides farmers with methods to monitor biodiversity on their property (see appendices). The report discusses New Zealand's native biodiversity, and especially how it differs from parts of the world that are often used as models for applying RA in New Zealand. It then looks at biodiversity conservation in pastoral farming landscapes and outlines some principles for implementing biodiversity conservation on New Zealand farms, including regenerative farms. It finishes by discussing how we can use native biodiversity as an indicator of successful regenerative farming practices. Regenerative farming was developed in countries with large native mammals, such as bison. To mimic the way these herbivores would have grazed naturally, regenerative farmers overseas practice intense grazing followed by long rest periods. The New Zealand context is very different: there were no land-based mammals here prior to human settlement, which occurred very late on a global scale. This means much of New Zealand's flora and fauna are not well-adapted to dealing with mammals, and many species are still adjusting to the pressures of settlement. Because of this, 'regenerative' grazing in our native tussock grasslands (and any grazing in native forests) is likely to be detrimental to native biodiversity. The Mackenzie Basin is an area of particular concern. Despite this key difference, most of New Zealand's pastoral farms are now based on grasses that originated in other countries, such as ryegrass and clover. On these farms, the regenerative grazing approaches followed overseas are appropriate, and build on our well-established rotational grazing practices. Diverse pasture species are considered a key principle for regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, but the report warns of risks from additional weed pressure. There is high potential for some species included in diverse seed mixes to become invasive and cause harm to our native taonga species. Regenerative farmers should take this into account in their planning, and researchers can help identify the potential threats. There are helpful differences in the way a regenerative farmer might think about their land and its management, says Professor Norton.'The underlying philosophy of regenerative farming means that the farm is seen as an integrated system, while more traditional farmers might see conservation and farming as spatially separate parts of the farm,' says Professor Norton.'Regenerative farmers might still have core areas for native biodiversity, like forest remnants, but the systems approach encourages these to be connected through the whole farm landscape, and integrated with native habitats beyond the farm.' Contract Report: LC3954-17


Funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's Our Land and Water National Science Challenge (Toitū te Whenua, Toiora te Wai) as part of project Regenerative Agriculture


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