Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Department of Conservation form partnership video

CHRISTINE CORNEGE/ Fairfax Media NZ

Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Department of Conservation have entered into a partnership as they head towards a predator and weed-free Waitomo.

Carl Fischer can tell you the health of a cave depends entirely on what's happening on the land above it.  

The environmental officer spends half his time in the cold, wet, darkness of Waitomo's cave systems and half his time working on the ground above.

He's been doing the behind-the-scenes work to preserve the caves for almost three years, and is thrilled that a new partnership between Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Department of Conservation will improve conservation outcomes across the district.

Environmental officer Carl Fischer monitors the cave microclimate and ecosystems, including carbon dioxide, humidity, ...
CHRISTINE CORNEGE

Environmental officer Carl Fischer monitors the cave microclimate and ecosystems, including carbon dioxide, humidity, temperature and glowworm populations.

"The collaboration to better manage pests and weed species will in turn improve the native biodiversity in the bush and streams, and therefore the caves," Fischer said.

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Fischer said glowworms make it easy to understand why stream health is so important.

Glowworms thrive in stream caves because flowing water transports insects into the cave for glowworms to prey on.
CHRISTINE CORNEGE

Glowworms thrive in stream caves because flowing water transports insects into the cave for glowworms to prey on.

"The glowworms depend on the insects in the cave, which depend on the amount of organic matter in the stream – and we depend on the glowworms.

"The glowworms are Waitomo's and even New Zealand's point of difference.

"There's nowhere else in the world you can see anything like them, which is why we are working so hard to protect them."

The glowworms depend on the insects in the cave, which depend on the amount of organic matter in the stream.
CHRISTINE CORNEGE

The glowworms depend on the insects in the cave, which depend on the amount of organic matter in the stream.

It took a massive glowworm die-off in the 1970s to wake people up to wider environmental dangers.

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"They turned off their lights and the cave was closed for about nine months.

"No glowworms mean no glowworm business – the 1970s scare was a catalyst for the work we do now."

Stalactites hang from the ceiling of caves and stalagmites rise from the floor.
CHRISTINE CORNEGE

Stalactites hang from the ceiling of caves and stalagmites rise from the floor.

Fischer spends his days monitoring the Aranui, Ruakuri and Waitomo Glowworm cave environments.

When he's not below ground, he's in the office checking the cave data or out managing bait lines or planting trees.

He said the partnership with DOC will allow targeted management of pests and invasive weed species.

The level of carbon dioxide is influenced by visitor numbers and climate conditions and has the potential to damage cave ...
CHRISTINE CORNEGE

The level of carbon dioxide is influenced by visitor numbers and climate conditions and has the potential to damage cave formations if not correctly managed.

"Specifically, the pest control is about maintaining a systematic trapping, baiting and monitoring programme to reduce predators.

"By reducing predator numbers, we improve the vitality of the bush and the native biodiversity, which is linked to the health of the stream, which is linked to the health of the caves."

Any pollution and sediment that occur above the caves pass through the caves via the stream, Fischer said.

Environmental officer Carl Fischer monitors the cave environment.
CHRISTINE CORNEGE

Environmental officer Carl Fischer monitors the cave environment.

Over the next few weeks, more than 2000 native trees will be planted in the district, funded by Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Waikato Regional Council.

The trees include kowhai, manuka, toetoe and pukio and will be planted in the riparian margins between Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Ruakuri Bush Reserve.

Fischer has been involved with the planting of thousands of native trees and erecting thousands of metres of fencing to keep stock out of waterways.

This work improves water quality, which is beneficial to the caves and the glowworms. 

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves operation is a finalist in the Green Ribbon Awards for its work around managing water quality. 

 - Stuff

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