Experts have confirmed Rotorua's Dansey Road Scenic Reserve is now home to two undescribed species.
A new kind of Porrhothele spider, commonly known as the tunnel web spider, and a variation of the pink Entoloma mushroom have been discovered there.
Conservationists are abuzz with the finds, with new species discoveries being an indicator of a healthy forest and low numbers of invasive pest species, such as rats and possums.
The discoveries were made during forest expeditions by various wildlife enthusiasts.
Rotorua Canopy Tours, the conservation tourism business operating in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve, have been responsible for pest management in the forest since they first opened doors there eight years ago.
In the last six months alone, they've removed 1517 rats and 40 possums from the forest with their trapping efforts.
"Over the last eight years we've seen firsthand the positive impact of trapping, with native flora and fauna like rare striped skinks, long-tailed cuckoos, werewere kōkako, and now these new species making this forest their home," Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button said.
"Our most recent trapping numbers highlight the ongoing need for trapping to keep our forest in shape, so it can continue to be a sanctuary for all the native and endemic species that thrive here."
Macro photographer Bryce McQuillan discovered the new species of Porrhothele while trudging through the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve.
"When you walk through the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve, it's clear to see why the forests' ecology is thriving," he said.
"The untouched micro-conditions provide a safe haven for undescribed and existing species to live. Forest health is especially important for spiders who can't travel effectively between forests like birds can.
"The Porrhothele, or tunnel web spider, creates silken tunnels across the forest floor that are known to capture small predators. Isn't it ironic? It's almost like the forest is repaying Canopy Tours for their trapping efforts by creating species that can trap pests themselves – no wonder the forest is in great condition."
Recently, another wildlife photographer, Paula Vigus of gapt.it, found an unidentified mushroom in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve and alerted local experts to the discovery.
Lee Ormsby, a local fungi enthusiast, was part of the team headed by amateur mycologist Shirley Kerr, who first confirmed the find was indeed an undescribed variation of pink Entoloma.
"When we heard the news of the photographer's discovery, we made a beeline straight to the forest," Ormsby said.
"At first, we were unsure what had been discovered, but microscopy confirmed the fungi was an undescribed species of Entoloma. Its subtle pink colour is quite incredible, it sticks out amongst the green forestry and shrub surroundings.
"I've spent a lot of time in forests around Aotearoa, and the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve is one of a kind. The low predator numbers and restorative efforts have created an understory that is not only perfect for fungi, but other wildlife as well."
"It's epic what Rotorua Canopy Tours have achieved with their trapping efforts, and it's equally as epic to see the rewards of this work when walking through the forest."
Rotorua has quickly become a destination for New Zealanders to escape into the forest and experience wildlife first-hand.
Button believed other nature-based tourism activities across Aotearoa can look to the region for inspiration.
"What we're doing at Canopy Tours is something we would love to see replicated across all nature-based tourism activities in New Zealand," he said.
"We are at a moment in history where biodiversity and ecology are at a critical turning point. Imagine what other species we can unearth across Aotearoa if we can inspire meaningful change within our native forests."
Rotorua Canopy Tours has been operating their award-winning zipline tours in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve in a partnership with the Department of Conservation since 2013.
Their extensive pest trapping programme has brought invasive pest populations under control, allowing native flora and fauna to come back to the virgin, native forest.
Canopy Tours use a mix of DOC rat and possum traps, as well as Goodnature A24 and A12 automatic pest traps across 250ha of the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve, to help manage the pest's population in the native bush.
They have hosted foreign delegations, tourism conference groups, school programmes and corporate trapping projects in their forest over the last eight years.