Three Takeaways from Chatting with Biodiversity Monitoring Expert Joanne Clapcott


This week, our podcast host Tim Dangen, sat down with biodiversity monitoring expert Joanne Clapcott. Joanne is a freshwater scientist and team leader of the freshwater ecosystems team at Cawthron Institute in Nelson. Her work involves evaluating the biodiversity and health of bodies of freshwater like rivers, streams, and lakes to learn what’s living there and what it’s doing, so she has lots of experience monitoring biodiversity.

Joanne Clapcott, freshwater scientist and biodiversity monitoring expert

The first big takeaway we have is that monitoring biodiversity is important to show progress and help you make decisions on farm. “It comes down to we can't manage what we don't measure… Biodiversity is part of the natural estate [on farm], it's what you're managing. And so if you're going to manage anything, you need to measure it and be able to track change in that over time,” Joanne explains. She says there’s a range of tools that can help you monitor biodiversity. To start with, paying attention with your “eyes and ears” to which species you observe on farm is crucial to understand what’s there in the first place. Another tool you probably already have is a phone camera, which you can use to take photos around your farm to help identify species using apps like iNaturalist and to visually show the change in on-farm biodiversity over time. After that, Joanne recommends seeking help and resources from catchment groups, farm advisors, and local government to: “help direct your eyes and ears to the right things, so you can record them in a biodiversity assessment.” If you want to do more comprehensive biodiversity assessments, Joanne says there a lot of tools out there that are made community friendly like eDNA river sampling, satellite imagery, and stream and wetland monitoring kits, and these resources can often be shared within a catchment group to cut down on the cost.

Another big takeaway is that farmers should be carrying out biodiversity assessments regularly and in the same places every year. “At a minimum, you might do an annual assessment, probably at the same time of year…at a quiet time, when it fits into the schedule. Any time is a good time, but at a minimum, annually.” Making time to record the biodiversity on your farm will help you learn what’s already on your farm, will show how actions you take affect biodiversity, and will provide evidence of these actions and improvements. Joanne says that biodiversity monitoring doesn’t have to be a chore: “It can be incorporated into almost a day-to-day activity, like walking the fence and checking on the fence line, something that can just become part of good farm management.” 

Our final takeaway from the chat with Joanne, is that you need to measure the actions that you’re taking to improve biodiversity, to get a whole picture of how biodiversity is changing on your farm. She says that since biodiversity can take a while to change, farmers need to monitor other measures as well: “So whether that be, a different management regime, or the action might be planting a certain area, or it might be fencing off a certain area. So it's important that we measure the actions. And then it's important that we measure the pressures that we're mitigating by those actions. So the increase in shade on a stream, for example, which mitigates the temperature. And then finally, it's the indicators of the biodiversity of themselves. So the change in the flora and the fauna, so that might change in a five, ten year time frame. Whereas by measuring actions, you can show that you're having immediate change.”

To learn more about biodiversity monitoring, listen to the full podcast episode at this link: You can also find the Our Farms, Our Future podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, and be sure to subscribe to see when new episodes are released! And to hear more from Joanne, follow her on Twitter @joclapcott and you can follow Cawthron institute at @Cawthron_NZ.

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