NEIGHBOURHOOD BIOLOGY UPDATE
by Jannine Cunningham

WARRINGTON SCHOOL PROJECT

This month, Warrington School endured a three day onslaught of NBio fieldwork activities.

After studying life cycles, foodwebs, invertebrate diversity and tolerances to pollution, Marc Schallenberg led 21 kids on an exciting exploration of the stream life in Carey's Creek at Evansdale Glen. Along with baby crayfish, inanga and bullies,the kids were delighted to discover all manner of strange invertebrate creatures - toe biters were definitely a firm favourite. After a frenzied morning of enthusiastic sampling - each group returned to the classroom with a sample to sort into broad family groupings.

An interesting and unexpected result was discovered by the class. All but one of the sites had similar distributions and abundances of bugs indicating that the stream is indeed healthy. However, one group had a very different and somewhat troubling assortment of bugs in their sample. It turned out that they had sampled below the ford in the stream where cars cross. This led to a discussion about environmental disturbance and one student even suggested that a vehicle bridge be built to stop the disturbance.

Maureen Howard introduced the class to an extensive variety of bird species that visit, feed and breed on Warrington Spit. The class then trekked the length of Warrington beach, learning how to assess observation distances and identified black backed gulls, red billed gulls, South Island pied oystercatchers, variable (black) oystercatchers, terns and shags. The kids finished off the day by drawing and researching the characteristics of local birds.

Joseph Dougherty and myself spent a day and half with the class looking at the impacts of vegetation change on Warrington Spit. We studied the concepts of ecosystems and impacts; performed an experiment on the effects of vegetation in sand dune formation; distinguished native plants from exotics.

During the field trip, we looked at how the exotic marram grass has replaced native pingao on the Spit and the impact of this vegetation change on the fore dunes. The students discovered that the sand binding pingao was completely destroyed by grazing and fire after the Europeans arrived, and that the sand dunes are no longer 20 to 40 feet high (as in a 1922 map). They were also amazed to learn that the high tide mark used to come up to the Domain entrance road. We also studied the impacts of exotic pines on the clay bank/back dune area, and looked at why native muehlenbeckia is now such a pest. Then armed with quadrats, we trekked along a transect line across the Spit, identifying and quantifying plants that we found.

We were thrilled to discover healthy populations of two rare native plants, only found in a couple of other locations in Otago: sand coprosma and shore convolvulus (panahi).

The class put all of this information together on a monster mural, and worked hard to write up all the info in their work books. The discovery of rare native plant populations, has made a comprehensive mapping of the Warrington Spit and Rabbit Island vegetation a high priority for NBio.

WARRINGTON BEACH CLEAN UP

A small hardy group of locals defied the dire weather forecasts and endured sand whipping to help collect a range of debris and litter from the beach, domain and bay. The results are still being compiled.

I am appalled at the amount of litter spread throughout the long grass around the edge of the domain. That area seems to be treated as a dump by visitors. If anyone has any suggestions on how that kind of behaviour could be changed, please give me a call. I am also horrified at the amount of glass picked up off the domain and bay - the quantity of glass in these areas suggests that footwear is essential for children - and watch out for your doggy's paws! I'd be interested in hearing any stories about cut feet and paws as I'm keen to campaign against bottle smashing in the area.

Unfortunately, the unfriendly weather left us a bit lacking in beach cleaners - there is still plenty of glass left. If anyone is interested in participating in a glass clean up of the bay, give me a call.

WARRINGTON RECREATION RESERVE

Do you think the following issues need community discussion?
  1. Management by the DCC
  2. Local input into management
  3. Developing the potential of the reserve

Do you think the community needs to get together to talk about the future of Warrington Recreation Reserve (and Rabbit Island)?

Neighbourhood Biology is trying to find out if any improvements need to be made to the Warrington Reserve environment, or the way it is managed, so we are keen to have your opinions about various issues relating to reserve management and the future of Warrington Spit. If there is enough interest, we hope to organize a public meeting in May to develop some community consensus on the subject.

I have started visiting people for a chat to gather opinions on issues such as: vehicles, dogs, signs, litter, rabbits, possums, fore dune vegetation, wilding pines, camping, illegal recreational fishing, beach wardens. Unfortunately, I can't randomly visit everyone, so if you're keen to express some ideas on this subject, give me a call and I can pop round to see you.

FOREST HEALTH!

Interested in finding out what the state of your local forest is? If you are, then Joseph Dougherty will be leading a study group on a mid-May Saturday (check notice boards for details). We will look at the structure of the forest and the impacts of pests and people. Please contact Jannine if you're interested.

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