Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Landcare project proves worth of wetlands on farm

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Wetlands can have significant beneficial impact when it comes to improving native biodiversity.
If a farm has a sticky corner or a problematic paddock, a wetland could be one way to make it work, as dairy farmer Shaun Lissington points out to project group chair Ian Mackenzie at his North Canterbury demonstration wetland project.
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Managing wetlands as farm assets can provide tangible benefits for on-farm environmental responsibilities, according to a New Zealand Landcare research project.   

Once a problem and now an opportunity, wetlands can have significant beneficial impact when it comes to improving native biodiversity on farm, Landcare NZ Canterbury project manager Tony Watson said. 

There has been a significant loss of wetlands throughout New Zealand over many years, almost always through drainage, land development and land-use change. 

In Canterbury, natural wetlands on the plains are now very rare. Remaining wetlands tend to be coastal or in the foothills, high country or on the margins of rivers.

When better integrated into the farm, wetlands become assets offering a range of benefits, Watson said. 

“It doesn’t seem that long ago we were draining wetlands to make way for urban development and increasing farm production. 

“Turns out that wetlands have some amazing benefits, from acting like a sponge and helping to reduce flooding and the impact of high-rainfall events, to improving water quality, trapping sediment and reducing nutrient losses. “Wetlands can be a great way to improve native biodiversity on farm and not many farmers are against having areas of native plants.”

NZ Landcare Trust has been working with 14 farmers from Kaikōura to Otematata in a project helping to identify the simple steps that can be taken to restore wetlands on farm. 

The Managing Wetlands as Farm Assets project offered practical support and is showcasing how farmers can form or preserve wetlands. 

“Turns out there are a few key things we’ve learnt alongside the farmers with demonstration wetlands on their farms and it’s these findings we’ll be sharing with other farmers and rural professionals,” Watson said.

Project steering group chair Ian Mackenzie, a Mid Canterbury farmer with experience in wetland restoration, said the project was exciting. 

“It showed how to control weeds when stock was excluded and which plant species were best suited to different areas.

“With the protection of mahinga kai now part of farm environment plans for some Canterbury districts, we want farmers to understand why wetlands are regarded as taonga, as treasured natural resources.

“We have a good opportunity to share this knowledge,” Mackenzie said.

As the project formally concludes, a Farm Wetland Symposium is planned to share the findings.

The symposium, open to all farmers and other interested parties, will be held at the Addington Events Centre, Christchurch on May 2.

Each of the demonstration farmers will share their individual wetlands story.

For more information go to: https://landcare.org.nz/project/managing-wetlands-as-farm-assets/

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