Studying post-pine harvest land viability

Research project to investigate viability of reverting pine forests post-harvest to native bush, or replanting them in manuka.

Research project to investigate viability of reverting pine forests post-harvest to native bush, or replanting them in manuka.

PINE FUTURE? Landcare Research’s Dr Suzanne Lambie with manuka plantings near Lake Tutira. Their three-year research project will look into future land use options on erosion-prone land on the East Coast, including re-planting it with manuka. Picture supplied

AN EAST Coast research project will investigate the viability of reverting pine forests post-harvest to native bush, or replanting them in manuka to support the burgeoning honey industry. The three-year Landcare Research project will look at the best land use options in steep, erosion-prone East Coast land, factoring in a predicted increase in high-intensity storms due to climate change.

Landcare Research received a $450,000 grant for the project from a $3.3 million pool of government funding for climate change research projects. Project leader Dr Suzanne Lambie said it is an important project for the East Coast, which has the highest erosion levels in the country.

The researchers will build on a body of work done by Gisborne-based Landcare Research researcher Dr Mike Marden, but also look more closely at social, environmental and economic factors, and the impacts of climate change.

“We will be looking at the best land use which retains, or improves, erosion control capacity and water quality,” Dr Lambie said. “We will assess the potential impacts associated with land-use change from pinus radiata plantations to natural regeneration or manuka plantations, against the status quo of production forestry.”

A significant proportion of the exotic forest estate established since Cyclone Bola in 1988 is planted on highly erosion-prone landscapes and is now of harvestable age. Some of it, planted before Bola, is in its second rotation. Subsequent storms, as recently as in 2015, have confirmed parts of these forests remain highly erodible.

There have been increasing concerns in the East Coast community about the impacts forest harvesting is having on water quality and infrastructure downstream of forests from slash. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of storms, forcing a rethink of the most appropriate long-term use for the most at-risk parts of the East Coast forest estate. The project will include economic, geophysical and climate change modelling to inform the best land use.

“A whole range of people will be involved from all those areas of expertise,” Dr Lambie said. “The research and modelling may also determine how much land will still be able to be used to make money, or if in some areas it should not be used for any production due to increased erosion risk under greater storm frequency and intensity with climate change.”

Potential issues include how the land previously planted in pine would support manuka, the lifespan of manuka, how other weed species, such as gorse, might grow too, and the recent threat of myrtle rust. The project will start in July and include researchers based in Hamilton, Auckland and Palmerston North. There will be a series of community workshops to explain the project and assess the social factors involved.

The project is one of eight climate change research projects in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries this month under its Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change research programme.

AN EAST Coast research project will investigate the viability of reverting pine forests post-harvest to native bush, or replanting them in manuka to support the burgeoning honey industry. The three-year Landcare Research project will look at the best land use options in steep, erosion-prone East Coast land, factoring in a predicted increase in high-intensity storms due to climate change.

Landcare Research received a $450,000 grant for the project from a $3.3 million pool of government funding for climate change research projects. Project leader Dr Suzanne Lambie said it is an important project for the East Coast, which has the highest erosion levels in the country.

The researchers will build on a body of work done by Gisborne-based Landcare Research researcher Dr Mike Marden, but also look more closely at social, environmental and economic factors, and the impacts of climate change.

“We will be looking at the best land use which retains, or improves, erosion control capacity and water quality,” Dr Lambie said. “We will assess the potential impacts associated with land-use change from pinus radiata plantations to natural regeneration or manuka plantations, against the status quo of production forestry.”

A significant proportion of the exotic forest estate established since Cyclone Bola in 1988 is planted on highly erosion-prone landscapes and is now of harvestable age. Some of it, planted before Bola, is in its second rotation. Subsequent storms, as recently as in 2015, have confirmed parts of these forests remain highly erodible.

There have been increasing concerns in the East Coast community about the impacts forest harvesting is having on water quality and infrastructure downstream of forests from slash. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of storms, forcing a rethink of the most appropriate long-term use for the most at-risk parts of the East Coast forest estate. The project will include economic, geophysical and climate change modelling to inform the best land use.

“A whole range of people will be involved from all those areas of expertise,” Dr Lambie said. “The research and modelling may also determine how much land will still be able to be used to make money, or if in some areas it should not be used for any production due to increased erosion risk under greater storm frequency and intensity with climate change.”

Potential issues include how the land previously planted in pine would support manuka, the lifespan of manuka, how other weed species, such as gorse, might grow too, and the recent threat of myrtle rust. The project will start in July and include researchers based in Hamilton, Auckland and Palmerston North. There will be a series of community workshops to explain the project and assess the social factors involved.

The project is one of eight climate change research projects in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries this month under its Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change research programme.

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