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Restoring different ecosystems

Restoring different ecosystems

Updated 16 July 2020 3:48pm

Native clematis


When embarking on restoration work, it’s important to understand the type of ecosystem you are working in.

Find out about wetlands, streams and riparian areas and coastal areas, and resources that can help you restore them. There is also information about legal protection for these valuable ecosystems to give them the best chance of recovery in the long term.


Wetlands are extremely important ecosystems and many are home to rare native plants and animals. Unfortunately, there are very few wetlands remaining in New Zealand, and their extent in Wellington has also been severely reduced. The following publications provide information on wetlands and wetland restoration:

For even more information on wetlands, check out:

 Streams and riparian areas

Streams and riparian areas (stream banks and floodplains) are important habitats, food sources and breeding areas for our native fish and many other native animals.

Because New Zealand was largely forested before people arrived, our freshwater ecosystems are adapted to the high level of shading provided by intact bush. Overhanging plants shade streams, keeping the water cool for aquatic invertebrates and providing them with food.  The cool and dark environment prevents unnatural algae growth which depletes the water of oxygen needed by fish and invertebrates.  Riparian vegetation also promotes good water quality by filtering contaminants that would otherwise enter a waterway.

Freshwater algae is a large group of organisms, including both New Zealand native and invasive exotic species. You can learn about them by using the freshwater algae guide developed by Landcare Research, and maybe even have a go at collecting and identifying some algae at your place.

Riparian plants provide an important connection between the aquatic and land environments. For example, insects on branches can fall into the water and are a good food source for fish and aquatic invertebrates.

The following guides can help you learn how to replant riparian areas and how to ensure that native fish can move freely along our streams and rivers.

NIWA has developed a great guide to monitoring the health of streams by assessing the habitat values and the animals and plants you find. Check it out here.

 Coastal areas

Sand dunes are important natural areas, not only for their ecological significance but also because they protect our beaches and coastal areas from erosion. Dunes act as barriers to damage from  storms and waves.

Dunes contain many specially adapted plants that stabilise the sand and provide habitat

Protecting and restoring dune areas can help conserve our coastline for years to come.

 Protecting these valuable ecosystems

Recovery of natural ecosystems can be very slow, depending on the level of intactness at the start of restoration work. During the restoration process, it is good to think about how we can ensure the protection of an area so that it has a better chance of supporting functioning ecosystems in the long term. Legal protection, such as covenanting, is a great way to safeguard your efforts and investment into the future.

For more information you can email us at