New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity published

The first of three volumes offering a comprehensive stock take of New Zealand’s entire known biological biodiversity — the New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity — has been published by Canterbury University Press.

New Zealand is a hotspot of biological diversity, with a high proportion (52%) of endemic species, and much still to be discovered. NIWA Principal Scientist Dennis Gordon has compiled and edited the first of three volumes that review and inventory this incredible diversity: more than 55,000 known fossil and living species of New Zealand’s animals, plants, fungi, and micro-organisms.  Chapters for all three volumes were contributed by 227 authors from 18 countries to produce the most comprehensive book of its kind in the world.

An inventory of all life through all time

The New Zealand inventory is unusually ambitious in its scope, describing all life — including fossil and naturalised alien species — from the Cambrian era to the present day, in all environments.

The volumes are organised according to a six-kingdom view of life, with each chapter dedicated to a single phylum. Each chapter contains a checklist of all species marked with their status (native, endemic, naturalised alien), along with information on the characteristics, ecology, and distribution of each group. Volume 1, published in June, covers three major branches of the animal kingdom:

  • Radiata — including sponges, placozoans, comb jellies, and cnidarians (corals, jellyfish, and their kin)
  • Lophotrochozoa — the shelled and tentacled worm-like groups
  • Deuterostomes — all vertebrates and their ‘lower’ relatives the echinoderms, half-chordates, and sea squirts.

A starting point for managing our natural heritage

Dr Gordon says that, even before publication, the information has been used by New Zealand agencies charged with conservation and environmental protection “to find out what we have”. Knowing what species are here and which are native is an essential starting point to managing our natural heritage.

The inventory is affiliated with Species 2000, an international scientific project with the goal of enumerating all known species on Earth into one online directory, the Catalogue of Life. Dr Gordon is one of New Zealand’s leading biodiversity scientists and serves on the international teams co-ordinating the production of the Catalogue of Life and the World Register of Marine Species.

Volume 1 is available from Canterbury University Press. Volumes 2 and 3 are due out in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity (Volume 1), edited by Dennis P. Gordon, published by Canterbury University Press, June 2009, RRP NZ$89.95, Hardback, 584pp including 21pp colour, ISBN 978-1-877257-72-8.

Contact: Dr Dennis Gordon, NIWA Wellington

Species 2000 homepage

Update: Photos from the launch can be found on our Facebook and Google+ pages. Volumes 2 and three are also available for sale.