Denniston a haven for rare insects

02 May 2012

Our BioBlitz on Denniston Plateau in March has revealed how important the area is for rare and threatened insects, including a new species of day-flying moth.

Brian Patrick’s entomological team found a total of 77 insect species during the March 2-4 BioBlitz, providing more evidence that Bathurst Resources’ planned open-cast mine on the plateau would cause irreparable damage to a unique environment.

“The highlight of our survey was the finding of this new species of day-flying geometrid in the genus Arctesthes,”  Brian said in a report on his team’s findings. 

DNA analysis has confirmed the distinctiveness of the Denniston Plateau species of moth and it will be named soon, he said. The moth was found flying by day across flat wetlands on the plateau. No others were found and it is believed the species was just starting to emerge as adult moths at the time.

 The habitats studied by Brian’s team included a range of wetlands, streams, shrublands and forest patches. Many other species were rare or threatened, suggesting the habitats on the plateau are very natural and diverse.  

“The high number of rare and restricted insect species found on the Denniston Plateau, in addition to one new moth species, indicates a special place with a variety of special habitats,” he said.

“Overall, the Denniston Plateau, particularly the southern and less disturbed end, is important for the conservation of New Zealand’s special insect fauna.”

“The Denniston Plateau is an important part of the jigsaw in conserving and understanding the insect fauna of New Zealand and therefore it is imperative that it is protected and studied so as to understand the evolution of our landscapes and biota.” 

Natural history film-maker, author and photographer Rod Morris took part in the BioBlitz and since has been holding a series of talks around the country explaining why Denniston Plateau must be protected. On April 26 he spoke - with Forest & Bird Ambassador Sir Alan Mark and others - to a crowd of 150 in Dunedin.

Rod is also scheduled to speak in Motueka on May 7 and in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast on June 6.