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Our Environment: Issue 15 Winter 1998

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Monitoring Ecological Heritage Sites

About 50 sites of special ecological significance have been recognised in the Proposed City Plan. Special rules apply to some areas to protect the values they represent.

Sites of special ecological significance are found throughout the City, from the Port Hills to the low plains and coastal environment. They cover a variety of vegetation categories including wetlands, woodlands, saline habitats, hill and plain forests, grassland and shrubland. Many of these remnants are unique to Christchurch including sites such as Riccarton Bush, The Tors Reserve and McLeans Island.

The monitoring programme began earlier this year with a new site visited most weeks. After starting with a number of areas at the western end of the Port Hills the sites have since been prioritised and in most cases are visited in order of the ranking they have received. Many of the sites visited so far are Christchurch City Council-owned reserves.

Lists of species have been prepared for each site and these are updated following monitoring visits. This enables detection of changes in vegetation over time. Notes are made on management practices such as grazing regimes and presence of pests, and photographs are taken of individual plant specimens as well as overall views of the site to show the general nature of vegetation coverage at the time of the visit. To allow for long-term storage so that these images are available for comparison in the future, a digital camera is being used and the images are stored on a computer data base.

With the arrival of spring, many of the plant species became more noticeable with the white flowers of native convolvulus, geranium, hebes and celmisia signalling the presence of these plants, along with plump buds developing on prostrate kowhai and clematis plants. Warmer days also brought out an abundance of skinks and crickets - not to mention rabbits which are still flourishing.

The popularity of the Port Hills sites with human visitors has also been noticeable with significant numbers venturing out for tramping, running and cycling excursions over the summer and autumn.

Jenny Ridgen and Kate McCombs

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