Rotokare sanctuary 'Bio blitz'

Rotokare Sanctuary is taking an increased interest in the biodiversity of its wetland as part of its aims to achieve the highest level of restoration, protection and enhancement of the Sanctuary's ecosystem and the native species in it. However, an urgent question is whether recreational use of the Rotokare Lake can be enhanced by finding ways to manage cyano-bacteria blooms, for instance.

For this reason a team of experts from the University of Waikato came down for a weekend of exploration in both the wetlands and bush at Rotokare, to work with Rotokare volunteers, staff and other interested stakeholders in a"Bio Blitz".

It was an opportunity for about 30 people to be part of vegetation surveys, spotlighting streams for fish and, most interestingly, catching fish by New Zealand's only licensed research electro-fishing boat. The method doesn't kill the fish, but stuns them so they float to the surface close to the boat where they can be caught in a net. All native fish were released back into the Lake after data collection.

In summer the lake often has high levels of a native cyano-bacteria, or blue-green algae, and when levels are high, South Taranaki District Council, upon advice of the District Health Board closes the lake for boating and other recreational use.

About 30 people participated in the "Blitz". As a result a few new forest plants and trees were discovered, and the presence of the endangered longfin eel in the Lake, was confirmed. The catch also contained a large number of perch. "Perch is an introduced sports fish species that has been implicated in algal bloom formation through their suppression of zooplankton abundance" says associate professor Brendan Hicks.

- Stratford Press

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