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About biodiversity

About biodiversity

Updated 13 May 2016 11:48am

What is biodiversity?
The term ‘biodiversity’ describes the sum and variation of all living things on land, water and out at sea. 
The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy defines biodiversity as:
Biological diversity, or “biodiversity” for short, describes the variety of all biological life — plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms — the genes they contain and the ecosystems on land or in water where they live. It is the diversity of life on earth (pg1)
Indigenous biodiversity refers to the plants and animals that are native to New Zealand. 
Why is biodiversity important?
Many of our plants and animals are endemic to New Zealand, which means they are found no where else.  Our unique biodiversity has helped shaped New Zealand’s ‘kiwi’ identity.  Our ecosystems are aesthetically pleasing and provide opportunities for recreational activities like tramping, camping, kayaking and photography. 
Healthy ecosystems are important for Māori who believe all components of ecosystems, both living and non-living, possess the spiritual qualities of tapu, mauri, mana, and wairua. People are the kaitiaki (guardians) of these ecosystems and have a responsibility to protect and enhance them. This responsibility of people to other living things is expressed in the concept of kaitiakitanga — or guardianship.  
Healthy ecosystems and the organisms within them are vital for our everyday life; they recycle and protect our water, soil and nutrient resources.  They provide food, medicinal properties and a range of other resources.  These are the goods and services which we get for ‘free’.  Healthy ecosystems with greater diversity can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters and the natural processes and organisms are naturally more sustainable.  In New Zealand our ecosystems draw visitors from around the world and the land provides a strong agricultural resource both of which help the New Zealand economy.


In New Zealand many species are endemic (they are only found here in New Zealand).  Some of these species, like kiwi and silver ferns, are iconic of New Zealand. There are numerous others like kauri, kākāpō and kākāriki (parakeet) that are well known, but many, like kākahi (freshwater mussels) and pepeketua (NZ frogs) are unknown to many New Zealanders.

kākahiIn the Wellington region we are lucky to have parks and areas where we can see our native plants and animals in the wild.  We have kākā and tūī flying around, and beautiful forests and coastlines are never far away.

Critically endangered species like Gardner’s tree daisy and pekapeka (the short tailed bat, New Zealand’s only type of indigenous land mammal) can also be found here. 

There are at least 45 distinct ecosystem types in the Wellington region. These include various types of forest, sandy beaches and dune systems, rocky beaches, wetlands, alpine tussock lands, estuaries and many more. For more information on New Zealand’s biodiversity you can visit

New Zealand biodiversity

Department of Conservation

Te Ara The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

Landcare Research - Naturally uncommon ecosystems


Green gecko