Predator free New Zealand: a climate change game-changer?

October 9, 2023 3:19 pm

In the ongoing battle against climate change, innovative solutions are emerging. We recently funded a groundbreaking science project led by Zero Invasive Predators Limited. The project, titled ‘Measuring the Impact of Invasive Browser Management on Carbon Storage in Forests,’ is exploring the potential climate-cooling effects of pest control programs.

The carbon connection
Climate change poses an imminent threat, necessitating creative approaches to mitigate its impact. The Predator Free 2050 initiative, primarily focused on eliminating invasive species, could be unlocking an unexpected benefit—climate regulation. Beyond the obvious advantages of increasing native bird, lizard, and insect populations, pest control programs might accelerate tree growth, enhancing their capacity to absorb greenhouse gases.

Unveiling the carbon story
In collaboration with scientists from Niwa, Scion, and government ministries, the project will measure carbon dioxide absorption in both pest-controlled and unmanaged forest areas. The goal is to demonstrate that predator-free forests significantly outperform those with unrestrained possums, rats, and stoats, thereby making a strong case for increased investment in domestic pest control.


The monitoring stations
To substantiate their findings, each area of the forest will be equipped with two air-monitoring stations. One station, situated along the coastline, will gauge the carbon dioxide content in the air arriving from the Tasman Sea. The second, inland station will track the remaining carbon dioxide levels as the air passes over the forest. This comparative analysis could potentially influence the government’s stance on investing in domestic predator control.

A cost-effective climate solution?
With the government aiming to halve national emissions by 2030, there is a looming challenge. The cost of meeting this target through traditional means, estimated between $3.3 to $23.7 billion, might prompt a re-evaluation of strategies. If predator control proves to be a cost-effective method of absorbing additional carbon dioxide, redirecting some of these funds towards domestic initiatives becomes a viable option.

The project holds the promise of not only preserving biodiversity but also contributing to climate change mitigation. As the findings unfold, Aotearoa New Zealand’s innovative approach may inspire a new wave of initiatives that seamlessly combine conservation efforts with strategies for climate regulation.

More from Around the traps