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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 14 April 2009
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Dr Peter Buchanan and Dr Robert Hoare, scientists at Landcare Research NZ Ltd, talk about New Zealand’s unique ecosystem. They talk about why so many of the species found here aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

Transcript

DR PETER BUCHANAN
People come from all over the world to study life in New Zealand, and we should be very, very aware of how unique New Zealand is, because New Zealand has been isolated from other parts of the world for so long – it’s about 80 million years ago that New Zealand separated from Gondwana. At that point of separation, there was a continuity of organisms that were suddenly separated, and over the geological time since then, and via evolution, the life forms in New Zealand have changed. Things have arrived occasionally over the many millions of years, but New Zealand basically has this amazing collection of life that has not been associated with other life forms for all of those many millions of years.

DR ROBERT HOARE
The community of organisms in New Zealand is almost entirely unique to New Zealand – and I use the word ‘endemic’ to describe things that only occur in New Zealand – and over 80% of our insects at least will be endemic to New Zealand and occur nowhere else. We think there are probably about 20,000 different species of insects in New Zealand, and only about half of those – maybe 9,000–10,000 – have actually been given scientific names. And even of the ones that are named, probably more than half of those, really, almost the only thing that is known about them is that they have been found here and they have been given a name, and we know almost nothing about their life histories and how they behave or what their particular requirements are for habitat and, um, how common or how rare they are.

Acknowledgements:
Crown Copyright. Department of Conservation. 2009
Lenny22, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
B.McKinlay, Crown Copyright. Department of Conservation. 2009
NASA
Steve Reekie
Birgit E.Rhodes, Landcare Research New Zealand Limited
Rachael Sowerby, Sirtrack