Status and Trends of Biodiversity
New Zealand is a Pacific island country composed of two main islands and many small islands. Its relative isolation from continental landmasses has led to a high level of endemic biodiversity. New Zealand’s animal biodiversity is unique in that it comprises predominantly bird species that evolved with no terrestrial mammals filling the predator niche. This has made its native species extremely vulnerable to predation by introduced mammals. New Zealand hosts a very large number of invasive alien species which have thrived in its relatively predator free environment. New Zealand was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans and the impact of colonization on its indigenous biodiversity has been both dramatic and well recorded.
In the last 700-800 years, 32% of New Zealand’s indigenous land and freshwater birds have become extinct, along with 18% of seabirds, at least 12 invertebrates and possibly 11 plants. The most recent inventory identified 2,061 threatened species. However, the last 20 years has seen a reduction in the rate of ecosystem condition decline. The main cause of ecosystem condition decline is associated with the impact of alien species on indigenous species.
New Zealand has one of the world’s largest protected area networks with approximately 29% of its land area under legal protection and management for conservation purposes. New Zealand also has the fourth largest exclusive economic zone in the world and has a network of 32 marine protected areas covering 1.27 million hectares within its coastal zone.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
National Parks (14): 3,104,868 ha. Conservation Parks/Areas: 4,861,262 ha. Reserves: 822,894 ha. Wildlife Areas: 21,093 ha. Protected Private Lands: 97,291 ha. Total: 8,916,646 ha.
Marine Protected Areas under conservation management (32 sites): 1,276,388 ha.
Percentage of Forest Cover
Indigenous forest: 6,483,228 ha; 75.89% of total forest cover; 24.19% of land area. Exotic forest: 2,059,194 ha; 24.1% of total forest cover; 7.68% of land area. Grand Total: 8,542,422 ha; 100% of total forest cover; 31.87% of land area.