Summit Forests is taking part in a collaborative research project in the pursuit of sustainable forestry practices and the restoration of native ecosystems. Tāne’s Tree Trust’s ‘Transitioning Exotic Forest to Native’ project — supported by the MPI Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and forestry partners including Summit Forests — is a great example of shared resources and collective dedication for the greater good. This ambitious five-year research program aims to unlock the secrets of transitioning pine forests to native. This will potentially help landowners who want to use exotics as an initial step in restoring land to native forest cover or retiring areas of exotic forest that are unsafe or uneconomic to harvest.
With a focus on Tairāwhiti, Tāne’s Tree Trust has joined forces with Summit Forests, Juken New Zealand, and Ngāti Porou Whanau Forests Ltd to survey the understory of various pine canopy densities. By assessing native understory growth and the presence of crucial native canopy tree seedlings, the project seeks to identify key factors that enable the successful transition from exotic forest to native. While transitioning from exotic to native isn’t something Summit Forests will typically do, we are committed to assisting research and development within the forestry sector.
To date, the field team has surveyed 17 plots across different locations, including Summit Forests’ Whakaangiangi, Buddo, and Pine Park stands. These surveys have revealed the presence of native understory species in all plots, albeit with varying degrees of species diversity. Additionally, signs of browsing by deer and goats have been observed, underscoring the challenges faced in maintaining and nurturing native vegetation. Notably, native canopy tree seedlings have been identified, albeit at low densities and predominantly in the shorter tiers, potentially indicating the impact of browsing animals.
With ongoing plot surveys scheduled throughout 2024, the resultant data will be analysed for any emerging trends. This information will play a pivotal role in shaping guidance for transitional forest management, guiding the future of sustainable practices, and aiding the transformation of pine forests into native forest where this is the desired outcome.