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Friday 1 November 2013 11:24am

Discovering the Natural History of the Central South Island

Neville Peat & Brian Patrick

wild_riversThe book

The story of the ever-changing landscape of the area bounded by the Waitaki River in the south and the Rangitata in the north, stretching from the Alps to the east coast. This is the first book to describe in detail the natural history of this large region.

A main focus is the braided rivers, which in world terms are rare and remarkable. They occur only in New Zealand, northern India, Tibet, Siberia and Argentina. Two things make these rivers remarkable: their ever-changing nature, and their nurturing of a diverse and unique community of plants, birds, fish, lizards and invertebrate life.

Locally, of course, the braided rivers have long been appreciated, by anglers especially. Wild Rivers celebrates the biodiversity of the region in clear and readable text, with over 200 colour photographs, most never before published.

The authors describe the special values of the region's flora and fauna, from riverbed birds such as stilts and wrybills, to introduced wallaby and tahr. They show the change of plant communities over time and the impacts of human settlement, farming and hydro-electricity.

Within the region there are unique habitats such as the salty soil areas at Otematata, and native plant rich refuges on limestone in Awahokomo Valley. Scientist Brian Patrick includes some ground-breaking research identifying insect species in the Midland Ranges, an area that has hitherto been a scientific vacuum.

The lakes and rivers of the central South Island are important for irrigation, power generation, fishing and recreation, and have cultural, spiritual and conservation values. The authors look at these numerous – and at times conflicting – uses, and discuss sustainable ecosystem management. Conservation efforts in the region include Project River Recovery, managed by the Department of Conservation with funding from Meridian Energy, which is benefiting the endangered black stilt and other species by clearing willow and other weeds.

Wild Rivers is the fourth title by Neville Peat and Brian Patrick in their award-winning series of regional natural history books. The format is attractive and accessible, with a good map and an index.

The authors

NEVILLE PEAT is the author of numerous guides to southern New Zealand natural features and attractions, including The Catlins. He is based in Dunedin.

BRIAN PATRICK is an entomologist and botanist and general manager, collections and research, Otago Museum.

Publication details

Paperback, 144 pages, ISBN 978 1 877276 15 6, $39.95


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