A classification of New Zealand’s terrestrial ecosystems

10 May 2014

This study produces a comprehensive terrestrial ecosystem classification by subjectively constructing a heirarchy of perceived key environmental drivers.

Introduction: The ecosystem concept is at the centre of international agreements, New Zealand legislation, and modern policy and planning systems that aim to sustainably manage natural resources. All definitions of ecosystems include the concept of the physical environment being integrated with its biotic components. Functionally, the concept embodies disturbance cycles, and flows of energy, nutrients and non-living materials, with these processes underpinning the concept of ecosystem health or integrity. Since these processes operate at variable spatio-temporal scales, and species and communities intergrade variably along environmental gradients, there is no single optimal scale at which to apply the ecosystem concept. Rather, the openness and hierarchical nature of ecosystem processes lead to any one classification scale being viewed as nested within coarser and finer scale components.

One of the goals of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy is to ‘maintain and restore a full range of remaining habitats and ecosystems …’. However, although many environmental agencies and individuals can contribute to this goal, any investment decisions are currently being made in the absence of a comprehensive list of ecosystems or a systematic threat ranking. Therefore, classification of the full range of ecosystem types for New Zealand is overdue.


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