Why biodiversity matters

This page explains what biodiversity is, why it's important and the current state of biodiversity in New Zealand.

What biodiversity is

Biodiversity is short for biological diversity. It describes the variety and diversity of all life on land, in fresh water and the sea. This includes ecosystems and the genes they contain.  It includes:

  • individual birds
  • plants
  • fish
  • insects
  • other species that are special to New Zealand  ̶  our indigenous biodiversity.

There are many examples, such as kiwi, tūī, inanga (whitebait), wētā, and tī kōuka (cabbage tree).

Why biodiversity is important

Our biodiversity provides the life supporting systems that enable all organisms, including humans, to survive. Our wetlands purify water and help prevent flooding and drought. Indigenous forests provide carbon sinks and purify the air we breathe as well as providing recreation and amenity values. Forests provide products such as timber, fuel, food and medicines. Our farming, forestry and horticulture depend on the resources and services provided by biological systems.

Indigenous biodiversity is often found nowhere else in the world. It is important to New Zealand’s environment, culture, society and economy. For Māori, the connection with nature is one of whakapapa (kinship).

The Government is developing a National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB) to help protect our native plants, birds and animals. This will direct councils to provide for biodiversity in their policy statements and plans under the Resource Management Act.

Find out more about the proposed NPS-IB

Biodiversity and climate change

Climate change is impacting on biodiversity. Biological changes are being observed globally. These include shifts in the range of some species, and earlier timing of leaf-unfolding, bird migration, and egg-laying in some species.

Other impacts are changes to marine and land ecosystem productivity and disruption of freshwater ecosystems due to warmer water and lower flows in rivers and streams. Biodiversity can help provide stability and resilience as we adapt to the fluctuations and disturbances brought about by climate change.

Current state of New Zealand’s biodiversity

Our use of our land combined with invasive pests and diseases have caused our indigenous ecosystems and species to be in a state of rapid decline. 

For information on the current state of New Zealand's biodiversity see the section Pōhutukawa Loss, extinction, gratefulness to the environment (te taiao) in Environment Aotearoa 2022 - our national environment report.


Find out more about biodiversity