Early this month Jo Sim and her species conservation dog Rua spent five gruelling days surveying the rugged coastlines of Ipipiri in search of burrow-nesting seabirds. The forests of these islands would have once been abundant with burrows housing a myriad of seabird species, but due to the arrival of introduced mammals and changes in land-use, the seabird population has been much reduced.
New Zealand is seabird central, with our waters having the highest species richness of anywhere on the planet. In New Zealand we have an appalling record of mainland colonies being wiped out by introduced predators, but the ecology of many islands is still dominated by the positive effects of burrowing seabirds. Their activities alter nutrients in the soil, change the type of plants that grow, and make homes for invertebrates and reptiles, many of which are endangered. Their presence in abundance is an indicator of a healthy and natural island ecosystem.