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New zealand comprises two main and several smaller islands totalling 267,707 square kilometers. There are over 200 peaks in excess of 2,300 meters. Situated on the boundary of the Indo-Australian and Pacific plates, the land is tectonically active. It has been shaped by volcanism, glaciation, and subsequent erosion. Located in a zone of prevailing westerly winds, the climate is temperate. Prior to settlement the land was largely forested, and as a result of its long biogeographical isolation, New Zealand had many endemic species, including numbers of flightless birds. Apart from bats, it had no land mammals and few predators.

As one of the last islands to be occupied by humans, the rate of environmental change, particularly over the last 200 years, has been dramatic. Estimates of ...

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