Waitomo: research and wildlife
Every now and then, QEII protected places are used in research projects. This is exciting for both us and the landowners, as we all get to be part of something that we can learn from and we can often find out more about the flora and fauna that can be found on a property.
Recently, PdD candidate from the University of Waikato, Nigel Binks, has been conducting some research in the forests of the central North Island with several QEII protected properties included in the mix of forest sites used, including the QEII owned Robert Houston Memorial Reserve. His research investigates the impacts of invasive mammalian predators on belowground-aboveground food-web interactions within remnant native forests which represent a gradient of predator control.
In other words, Nigel is looking at how predation by pest species such as rats, stoats, and possums, in areas where there are no natural predators to control them, can affect multiple levels within natural food webs, both above and below the ground. His research aims to determine whether invasive predatory mammals play an important role in regulating soil arthropods, such as insects which emerge from belowground can fly, or those which move through the leaf litter. These native creatures live within forests but can also provide beneficial services to their surrounding agricultural habitats.
During his site visits he often happens upon a range of weird and wonderful native fauna, including this gecko found among moss atop the rocks within the forest and a very impressive giant bush dragonfly (Uropetala carovei). Known as kapokapowai in Te Reo, they are the largest dragonfly in New Zealand.
Part of the monitoring includes trail cameras, which were set up at the Robert Houston Memorial Reserve. The cameras were in place for a fortnight and managed to capture several pests, such as stoats, possums and rats, at all times of the day and night.