Thousands of people up and down the country volunteer their time to plant thousands of native trees and shrubs. Reserves have been created on islands, such as Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi, where all pest species have been eradicated. Many inland pest-free ‘islands’ have been formed by erecting predator proof-fences. Some of these islands are in the middle of our cities, such as Riccarton Bush in Christchurch and Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington.
New Zealand is fortunate to have been human-free until relatively recently – 1,000 years is not long compared to 40,000 years in Australia and 100,000 years in Europe! We are also fortunate to have realised the value of our native bush before it was all gone. Now enthusiastic people are creating ‘corridors’ of bush so that our native species can have a better chance of survival. By connecting up remaining pockets of bush with these corridors, it allows many of our native animals to move between the pockets, increasing biodiversity and improving the gene pool.
Trees also improve the quality of our water by acting as filters, and their roots can provide habitats for aquatic animals. Trees improve soil quality by preventing erosion and loss of topsoil. They can improve our air quality by filtering out particulates and releasing oxygen. A recent study showed that growing up in a tree-lined street reduced your risk of developing asthma. Plants also absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and slow down climate change. Trees are now being planted to offset our carbon emissions because of this ability to act as ‘carbon sinks’.
Wherever you live in New Zealand/Aotearoa, there will be a replanting scheme near you where people volunteer their time and energy to improve our environment. Why not start one at your school or in a local park?