This research project aimed to enable farmers to see where wildlife and farmed animals are contributing to environmental DNA (eDNA), provide a method to detect positive change in future, and give communities a way to connect more deeply with their awa and its ecosystems.
The research was hosted by a dairy farm at the culturally significant headwaters of the Manawatū River in the Ruahine Ranges, and was undertaken by: Arapera Paewai (Taiao Ora Contracting), Penelope Drysdale (Te Miro Farm/Drysdale Dairies), Adrian Cookson (AgResearch), Shaun Wilkinson and Amy Gault (WilderlabNZ Ltd).
• The native species that live in our rivers leave eDNA, which can be detected to help communities understand the health of the water and the taonga species it supports.
• Identification of fish, bird and plant species via eDNA includes taonga species and aligns with the key indicators currently used by regional councils.
• Among the taonga species identified using eDNA in the case study were whio/blue duck (not previously recorded in the area), ruru/morepork, kōtare/kingfisher, tuna/longfin and shortfin eels, kaharore bully, dwarf galaxias and kōura.
• The number of individuals of each species cannot be identified via eDNA.
• The results provided an opportunity to have honest conversations with farmers as it enabled them to see where wildlife and farmed animals are contributing eDNA.