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Managing forest fragments


Download the factsheet above for more information.

The Waikato region’s forest fragments are patches of native vegetation left over after land development. Smaller fragments in particular may never be able to sustain the full range of native plants and animals present before the land was cleared. However, with good management we can help existing trees to live longer, encourage new plants to grow, and provide native animals with food and a place to live. These pages tell you how to manage and protect a fragment of native forest, particularly in rural areas.

Photo of a fence within a forest. On this page: planning your project, where to start

You can manage forest fragments by fencing out livestock, controlling pests and weeds, and planting. This helps to increase the number of native plants and animals within existing fragments. You can also use planting to create larger native forest areas by linking together two or more forest fragments in the same area.

You can also take legal steps to protect your fragment - for example, a covenant can be placed on the site. This means you still own and can sell the land, but the site remains protected on the land title. A number of trusts and organisations provide information and help in legally protecting areas of native bush on private land.

Planning your project

Before you begin managing your forest fragment, think about the following:

  • What is in your fragment (special features, pests, weeds)?
  • How does it compare with other fragments nearby?
  • What needs doing (fencing, planting, weed control)?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How much time and money do you want to invest?
  • How and where can you get help and advice?
  • Can you include nearby natural areas in your project?
  • Which fragment should you focus on?
  • Legal protection.

Organisations such as the Forest and Bird Society or the Queen Elizabeth II Trust can offer general advice and financial help for managing your forest fragment. You can also get some tips from neighbours who manage their fragments, local Department of Conservation or council staff, and plant pest officers. Community groups can help you with fencing or pest control, while school groups might be keen to help grow plants.

Monitor the changes as you go, by taking lots of photographs. Keep an eye out for weeds, and record what birds you see at different times of the year. Look for fruit and flowers, and young birds. They’re a good sign that pest numbers are down.

Remember to enjoy the results of your efforts, and share them with friends and visitors. Add seats and paths, listen to the birds and take night walks in your forest fragment.

Where to start

If you’re new to this, and you have several fragments on your land, start with a small site close to the house so it’s easy to visit. Otherwise select an area of native bush for restoration based on its:

  • Size - larger sites can generally maintain more native species.
  • Shape - sites that are squarish or circular will be cheaper to fence than narrow sites of the same size, and they will be less affected by edge effects.
  • Location - fragments close to other native areas will have a better chance of being colonised by birds and native seeds; fragments that cross your boundary may enable you to protect a larger area with your neighbour’s help; fragments next to streams or wetlands can help protect them from nutrients in water running off the land.
  • Condition - fragments with the least problems (for example, few weeds and pests, fenced or partly fenced) will generally provide the best return for effort.
  • Maturity - consider protecting areas with larger, more mature trees first - they may be hundreds of years old, so they’re harder to replace in our lifetime.
  • Access - you’ll need good access for fencing, pest control, planting, and visitors.
  • Special features - some fragments have rare or threatened species, culturally important species (such as rongoa Maori), or other special features that you may wish to look after and enjoy.

Find out more about fencing, controlling pests and weeds and planting in your fragment. You can also order a free set of forest fragment factsheets.

Our case studies show what other people in the region are doing to protect and restore their fragments, and you can also check out the legal aspect of protecting forest fragments.

Kahikatea forest fragments have special needs, which you can find out about in managing kahikatea forest fragments.

Find out about how the restoration, creation and protection of forest fragments as part of sustainable farm management practices has been recognised in our annual Farm Environment Awards.