Kauri feature in study

By Annette Lambly

A new study into the effect of climate changes on our native conifers, by a team led by Dr Cate MacInnes-Ng from the University of Auckland, could help protect the trees for future generations.

Kauri forests are among the most ancient in the world and once covered a million hectares of Northland.

Now only 7455ha of mature forest remain and parts of this is already under threat from the deadly kauri dieback disease.

Studies suggest rising temperatures and more frequent extreme events, such as droughts, are predicted to bring climatic changes to New Zealand which could put trees such as the kauri, totara and tanekaha at risk.

Dr MacInnes-Ng along with colleagues from Australia and the United Kingdom are to investigate the effect water stress has on these native conifers.

Research from tree ring analysis suggests these trees are particularly sensitive to drought.

Several traits make kauri particularly vulnerable to drought.

They prefer ridge tops - which exposes them to the driest soils - and they have predominantly shallow roots.

Very little is known about the slow growing tanekaha, or the totara, with few studies completed on the likely impact of climatic changes on our forests.

New research will not only benefit our understanding of these three endemic tree species, but could be crucial to the long-term survival prospects of our kauri forests and the other Southern Hemisphere conifers.

Funded by a Marsden Fund Fast-Start $345,000 grant (over 3 years), the project will compare water-use efficiency in these trees across different rainfall areas and look at how particular trees adapt to a lack of soil moisture.

The Marsden Fund, named after physicist Sir Ernest Marsden, was formed in 1994 to fund leading-edge scientific research in New Zealand. Projects are selected annually in a rigorous process by 10 panels and funding is spread over three years for each grant.

The Marsden Fund is contestable, is for investigator-driven research projects, and is not subject to government priorities.

It is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and funded by the New Zealand Government.

A total of 86 research projects from the 1113 preliminary proposals received have been allocated $54.6 million of funding in this year's Marsden Fund grants.


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