Not only are forests important for people, as they provide us with oxygen to breathe, take in carbon dioxide, help make rain, and reduce flooding, but they’re vital for the flora and fauna that live there.
Did you know that the forest is home to the only native land mammals in New Zealand – bats (pekapeka). These environments are also a place that so many other incredible animals call home. The forest and bush areas are the key to survival for so many species, providing them with a place to eat, sleep, and breed.
Have a look below at the amazing taonga that make forest and bush habitats their home, what challenges they face, and how you can help!
From the soil on the ground to the canopy of the trees, the forest plays host to many animals such as native birds, as well as invertebrates, bats, lizards (skinks and gecko), frogs, and tuatara. Forests provide shelter and food, whether it be insects for omnivores to snack on or tasty plants and berries for herbivores to devour.
Check out the list below of just some of the wonderful animals you can find in New Zealand’s forests:
The forest and bush is also home to several introduced species of animals like birds, pigs, deer, wallabies, rabbits, possums, insects, and hedgehogs.
New Zealand has lots of beautiful trees, some native and some non-native. The trees that make up most of the native forests are beech and podocarp-hardwood trees, like rimu.
These trees not only encourage other flora to grow, but they feed and provide shelter for many of our native animals as well. They have a very big role to play in these beautiful and diverse habitats!
Here is some of the flora you can find in in NZ:
New Zealand forests are essential for both animals and humans. Unfortunately, there are many challenges that these habitats and the animals that reside there face when it comes to their survival. For example:
Before humans arrived in New Zealand, native forest covered more than 80% of the land! Sadly, most of this forest, which was the home of so many animals, has been destroyed since people settled in New Zealand. Only about 25% of New Zealand’s native forests remain.
Trees were cut and the native timber was used for things like housing, canoes, boats, fencing, railways and firewood. Forests were also cleared to make way for things like farming, railways, mining, roads, shops and other buildings that make up our towns and cities. Additionally, cleared native forest areas have been used to grow fast growing exotic trees like pine for the timber industry. People have encroached on these spaces which have caused the animals, who have survived, to try and find homes elsewhere in some cases.
Kauri trees are among the most ancient and largest trees in the world. These native trees are extremely special to Aotearoa. Unfortunately, they are under threat from kauri dieback.
Kauri dieback is a fungus-type disease that essentially causes kauri to starve to death. The disease lives in the soil and infects the roots of the kauri – because of this, it is easily spread.
Not only does kauri dieback pose a threat to kauri trees, but many animals and plants are supported by the existence of kauri trees. This is another reason why it’s so important to prevent the disease from spreading.
With climate change comes increased frequency and intensity of extreme events such as higher temperatures, flooding, droughts, storms, and wildfires. These events can lead to the destruction of forests, causing a decrease in plants and animals, or forcing animals to find new homes if they can – though this is becoming much more difficult if there are not natural habitats for them to go to.
The conservation of forest and bush habitats in Aotearoa is extremely important for the flora and fauna that live there.
Plants and animals live together and support each other. For example, lots of plants rely on animals for pollination and seed distribution, while several animals rely on fruit and seed baring plants for their nutrition.
Take kererū for instance – they are the only bird big enough to eat and transfer the seeds from several trees, like karaka. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship where the diet of the kererū is dependent on the trees and the continued growth of the trees depends on the kererū.
Many native forests now have legal protection, but there is still lots of work to be done! Check out some of the ways you can be a kind conservationist and help promote the forest and bush below:
Volunteer to replant and restore areas of native forest
There are lots of places where you and your family can volunteer to help plant native trees, flax, ferns and shrubs to restore areas of native forest. This is a huge help as it keeps our forest and bush full of native trees that helps feed and provide shelter for lots of animals.
You can also learn to identify New Zealand native plants so that you can remove invasive weeds which will help native forests to flourish.
Think twice – do you really need to print that piece of paper? You can also talk to your family about the mail you receive. Can any of it be sent electronically instead? The less paper you use; the more trees are saved!
When visiting forests, stick to the paths
Not only does kauri disease spread easily, but sticking to the paths allows plants to grow and not get damaged by people walking on them. This also allows wildlife to have areas where they will not be disturbed.
Clean your shoes
In many forest and bush areas, there are cleaning stations for your footwear. It is of the utmost importance that you used these stations where they’re provided when you enter and leave walking trails.
As we know, rubbish has huge negative impact on several animals and their habitats. Animals can get caught up in or ingest rubbish, which can lead to serious injuries or even death.
Not only is it important to NEVER ever litter, but if you ever see litter, dispose of it properly so that it doesn’t make its way into animal habitats!
Give wildlife space
It’s always important to admire wildlife from a distance. Remain quiet, don’t approach them, and give them the respect they deserve. Birds and insects help spread seeds and pollen so it’s important to give them the room so they feel safe to carry out their important jobs!
Keep companion animals under control
When tramping, be sure to keep your dog on their lead and/or that they stay in designated off-lead areas and that they do not disturb wildlife and protected areas. If you are in an off-lead area and you come across wildlife put your dog on a lead immediately and lead it away, warn other dog owners at the location that there is wildlife around.
Notify the Department of Conservation (DOC) if you see wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.
Keep your cat safe and happy at home!
Contained cats are more likely to enjoy a longer, healthier life. This includes spending more quality time with you, keeping them safe from road traffic, avoiding problems with your neighbours, and reducing the risk they will harm or kills other animals. You can contain your cat by cat-proofing an outdoor area, using a combination of indoors and a secure outdoor enclosure, or keeping your cat indoors. You will need to provide them with opportunities to meet their physical and behavioural needs.
Write a polite letter or email
You can write a polite email or letter to the government urging further protection of our precious forest and bush habitats.
Spread the word
Let friends, family, and classmates know about the challenges forest and bush habitats face and what they can do to help protect them.
If you see a wild animal that is not sick, injured, or in danger. It is best to give them space and let them go about their day.
If you find a wild animal who is sick or injured, remember to put everyone’s safety first and with the help of an adult, call the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
DOC can help you locate a local wildlife rescue and/or come help the animal. It’s important to be as precise as possible about the animal’s location so they can be found quickly.