Seven-year-old Tess Halsey-Collier looks on in delight as she holds a green gecko in her hands.
Bioblitz explores the secret treasures of Hamilton City
A rare native freshwater fish, four species of weta, a rare moth and a large patch of native edible fungi are among the finds from the recent BioBlitz event, which searched along the banks of the Waikato River.
BioBlitz is a 24-hour search for every kind of life, from plants to fungi to fish to insects and lots more, says Moira Cursey, Waikato Biodiversity Forum Coordinator. It is a concept originally born in the US, and now in its third year in New Zealand.
expert team of over 30 scientists from The University of Waikato, NIWA, Landcare Research, AgResearch, WINTEC, Department of Conservation and Environment Waikato spent 24 hours searching along the riverbank and in the Waikato River and surrounding streams near the Waikato Art Museum for species. The scientists focused on searching for lichen and mosses, trees and plants, fungi, bats, birds, beetle and weta, moths, butterflies, spiders, flies, wasps, bees, worms, fresh water insects, freshwater algae, aquatic plants, fish and zooplankton.
A total of 948 species were discovered said Ms Cursey. One of the most interesting finds was the discovery of New Zealand's largest native fish, a giant kokopu, in one of the streams. This species is uncommon especially in urban areas.
The aim of the event was to amass data about the urban biodiversity, and to open the publics eyes to the vast array of species with which they share the places they frequent daily. As an additional benefit, BioBlitz helps inspire youngsters to consider a future science career.
Among the interesting species discovered during the 24-hour search were:
Some river samples taken by the University of Waikato and Environment Waikato scientists were full of a North American species of Daphnia (more commonly known as water flea), which is may compete with our native animals and may have an impact on fish populations.
Mycologist Peter Buchanan from Landcare Research in Auckland and his team found 74 species of fungi in the study site between Victoria and Whitiora Bridges. The recent rain meant that there were considerable numbers of fruiting fungi, including a wonderful collection of native edible fungus the best he's ever seen.
Moth expert Robert Hoare from Landcare Research in Auckland also had a very successful collecting experience with over 50 species found, including one undescribed (new) species of moth which was found nesting in a cabbage tree.
Scientists from NIWA and Department of Conservation discovered short-finned eels, one native crayfish (or koura), shrimps, perch and smelt in the Waikato River. A number of pest fish species were caught including koi carp (which can grow to over a metre in length and can also make the water become very cloudy) and mosquito fish.
Arachnologists Grace Hall from Landcare Research and Helen Ranson from WINTEC were surprised to find such a good diversity of spiders given the modified habitat along the riverbank. At least two, strikingly coloured yellow spiders collected over the weekend are destined for a comfortable life in captivity in order to be raised to maturity for proper identification.
There were low numbers of some groups of animals - particularly honey bees, beetles and birds, and the river was found to be particularly weedy.
Moira Cursey says BioBlitz was a great success, and a range of walks and talks by scientists was a particular hit. Children especially loved the night walks spotlighting for moths and searching for bats.
Environment Waikato Biodiversity Projects Manager Judy van Rossem describes BioBlitz as an inspiration.
Most of us, most of the time are quite oblivious to the many forms of life all around us. It's great to get an idea of the biodiversity in just one, quite ecologically modified urban area. And who knows what we might find in one of our native bush or gully ecosystems?
In summing up the event Hamilton City Council's Sustainable Environment Team Leader Liz Hallsworth says BioBlitz has given Hamiltonians a great opportunity to celebrate what we are doing right with biodiversity in the city. However it also challenges us to keep up the great work so that in years to come our cities natural areas will be even more diverse and vibrant. It would be fantastic if when this was run again we found more native species such as tui and bell bird along the riverbanks. If we all take an interest in protecting our natural surroundings this can become a reality.