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Scientists at Landcare Research use their collections as a reference book while they explore New Zealand’s hidden ecosystems to answer questions in classification, conservation and biosecurity.

This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when exploring New Zealand’s hidden taonga – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

Taxonomy

The science of dividing living organisms into groups. The current system, the Linnean system, works on the basis of relationships – how closely related two organisms are to each other. Traditionally, taxonomy was based on morphological features, but modern techniques allow for genetic information to be included.

Classification

The grouping and naming of organisms. In science, this is more correctly called taxonomy. Scientists who undertake classification studies are called taxonomists.

Conservation

Protection, preservation and careful management – in this case, of natural resources, the environment and species within it. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation acts to protect our environment and natural flora and fauna for future generations.

Endemic

Native to only one location. Species endemic to New Zealand naturally occur only in New Zealand but may have been introduced elsewhere in the world.

Native

Naturally occurring in a specific place, not introduced by humans. A plant native to New Zealand has established here naturally and wasn’t introduced by people. Species can be native to more than one country, such as the mānuka, which is native to both New Zealand and Australia.

Ecosystem

All the living organisms and their interactions with the physical features within a given area.

Arthropod collection

A collection of insects (phylum: arthropoda) held at Landcare Research, which is used by scientists to study and describe the range of insects that live in New Zealand. The arthropod collection is also used by biosecurity officials (border guards) to tell the difference between native and introduced species.

Fungi

A separate kingdom of organisms that are neither plants nor animals, which includes mushrooms, moulds and yeasts. Fungi often grow in a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with plants as either lichens or in structures called mycorrhiza.

Spores

The reproductive stage of fungi. These are very small, often round, structures that contain the genetic information for the formation of new fungi. The spore protects the DNA and helps dispersal. Unlike a seed, a spore does not contain stored food to help the new fungi germinate.

Mycorrhiza

Structure that forms between plant roots and a fungus, which can be described as a sock-like structure of a fungus that fits over the fine plant roots. The fungus grows into the surrounding soil and helps the plant absorb nutrients such as minerals. The plant provides the fungus with sugar from photosynthesis in return.

    Published 30 April 2009 Referencing Hub articles