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Research Alignment

People, Cities & Nature is at the forefront of ecological restoration but we aren't the only ones! We are contributing to an exciting and fast-changing research landscape that includes many programmes, students, academics, institutions and groups. Here is a snapshot of some interesting research programmes and projects that are related to People, Cities & Nature:

NZ Biological Heritage Mission: Reverse the decline of New Zealand’s biological
heritage, through a national partnership to deliver a step change in research innovation,
globally leading technologies and community and sector action - Cape to City Project.

People, Cities & Nature aligns with:
New Zealand's Biological Heritage

New Zealand's Biological Heritage aims to enhance and restore New Zealand’s land-based and freshwater ecosystems – on the conservation estate or in private ownership – by deepening our understanding of which species we have, and seeking science-based solutions to dealing with threats: pest animals and insects, weeds, pathogens, and climate. Hosted by  Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, New Zealand’s Biological Heritage is a partnership between 18 organisations:

  • CRIs: AgResearch, ESR, GNS Science, NIWA, Plant & Food Research, and Scion
  • Department of Conservation
  • Ministry for Primary Industries
  • Universities: Auckland University of Technology, Lincoln University, Massey University, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, University of Waikato, and Victoria University of Wellington
  • Independent Research Institute: Cawthron

Quantifying fluxes of energy through soil food webs will shed light on how
forest restoration can reinstate functioning and stability in urban ecosystems
"PCaN Underground" is funded by a Marsden Fund Fast-Start Grant.

People, Cities & Nature aligns with: The EcoDiv Lab

In 2019, the EcoDiv Lab was awarded a Marsden Fast-Start Grant for the project ‘Illuminating the dark side of restoration: soil food web reassembly in regenerating forests’, which investigates how urban forest restoration affects below ground biodiversity and ecosystem functioning:

Ecological restoration is vital for repairing human impacts on native biota and ecosystem processes, such as nutrient cycling in soils. Networks of trophic interactions (food webs) determine the structure and function of communities. Yet, we know little about how soil food webs reassemble during long-term restoration, despite their high biodiversity and importance for many key ecosystem processes.

The EcoDiv Lab aims to reveal how soil food webs reassemble over 58 years of active urban forest restoration across New Zealand and the resulting consequences for ecosystem functioning and stability of soil communities.

This research will provide a long-needed integration of food web theory into ecological restoration, thus increasing our ability to predict restoration outcomes for the biodiversity, functioning, and stability of multi-trophic ecosystems.

The vision of the EcoHealth Network is: 
An ecologically healthy relationship between humanity and the biophysical environment.

People, Cities & Nature is a hub of: The EcoHealth Network

The goal of the EcoHealth Network is to foster a rapid increase in the amount and the effectiveness of ecological restoration throughout the world. Combining social, economic, and ecological perspectives, the EcoHealth Network is primarily focussing on two related knowledge gaps: soil responses to restoration; and the relationships between ecosystem health and human health.

People, Cities and Nature is contributing scientific information to the EcoHealth Network mission: Accelerate understanding and awareness among scientists, policy makers, practitioners and the general public, of the feasibility and potentially enormous long-term benefits of ecological restoration, for human health and the ecosystems on which we depend.

These PhD projects align with People, Cities & Nature:

Invasive species in urban forest - Elizabeth Elliot Noe.

The capacity of restored urban forests to support native birds: Ecological or social restoration?

PhD - Elizabeth Elliot Noe - The University of Waikato
Supervisors: Bruce Clarkson, Ottilie Stolte, John Innes & Chaitanya Joshi

Elizabeth's PhD research combines ecological and social science to evaluate the contribution that restored native forests in New Zealand cities can make to native bird conservation and reconnecting urban residents with nature. The goal is to identify which factors among local habitat variables, landscape characteristics, site age and predation, determine the ability of native New Zealand bush birds to benefit from urban restoration. Using qualitative, semi-structured interviews she is further exploring whether frequent use of restored forest can re-establish a relationship between people and native nature.

For updates and awesome photos, visit Elizabeth's Urban Bird Project facebook page.

Common grass skink - Chris Woolley.

Can habitat enhancement (aka gardening for lizards) improve the resilience of endemic lizard populations in the presence of alien predators?

PhD - Sarah Herbert - Victoria University of Wellington
Supervisors: Nicola Nelson & Stephen Hartley

Sarah's PhD research examines whether a form of ecological reconciliation, habitat enhancement (or, ‘gardening for lizards’), can reduce the negative effects of exotic predators (which includes mice, rats, hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, ferrets and cats) on endemic lizard populations. The central questions of the research are:

  1. What habitat enhancement techniques have been trialled for reptiles, and were they successful?
  2. Is habitat complexity correlated with lizard abundance and species richness?
  3. Does an abundant lizard population have a negligible risk of extinction when it co-exists with predatory mammals?
  4. Can habitat enhancement increase the resistance to extinction of resident lizard populations in mainland areas?

Southern grass skink in pitfall trap - Chris Woolley.

Mitigation translocation for conservation of New Zealand lizards

PhD - Ox Lennon - Victoria University of Wellington
Supervisors: Nicola Nelson & Heiko Wittmer

Mitigation translocation is an increasingly common strategy worldwide for reducing damage to wildlife caused by human development and construction. Mitigation translocation is the movement of living organisms from a future development site to another location in an effort to mitigate damage caused to the organisms, and is often a legal requirement. However, this practice may only be fulfilling regulatory requirements rather than providing conservation benefit.

Ox's research uses NZ skinks as a study system to investigate the effectiveness of mitigation translocations for meeting legal and conservation goals, and how mitigation translocation practices might be improved to result in better conservation outcomes.