From Natural Habitats
Once upon a time, when Suzanne Paul reigned queen of the infomercial, calling someone a tree-hugger, was to imply they were a little bit out there – not quite the norm. Now however, as a by-product of a growing focus on sustainability, caring about the environment is no longer the domain of those who choose to take residence in tepees. Yes a short stroll through Ponsonby or Grey Lynn will quickly assure you of one thing – tree hugging is cool.
Generally speaking however, it’s best to know just a little bit about the seediness or otherwise of the things you’re hugging – so with this in mind, here are some facts about New Zealand’s forests. They are in bullet point format for those of you with short attention spans.
• There’s a chance, albeit a small one, that the house from the hit 90’s sitcom ‘Full House’ was built with New Zealand timber, as much of our native timber was exported to San Francisco to rebuild it after the 1906 earthquake and fire.
• Prior to settlement, 80% of our fine land was covered in forest. Today that number is closer to 30% – and that’s generously including the 7% of commercial forests dominated by Pinus radiata.
• It is estimated that this reduction in forest has contributed to the loss of 35 species of bird, 3 species of frog, and 3 species of lizard. Further losses in biodiversity can be expected if we fail to protect our native forests.
• There are three distinct types of New Zealand native forest: Southern Beech, Podocarp-Broadleaf, and Kauri forest.
• Southern Beech Forests make up approximately half of New Zealand’s remaining native forest. They are evergreen forests, naturally found in the infertile, alpine environments that characterize the South Island. They are generally composed of one canopy species, with no emergent trees, and few under story species.
• Podocarp-Broadleaf Forests are dense and jungle like in appearance. They have 5 vegetation strata’s and are predominantly found in low altitude areas in the North Island. Podocarps, such as matai, rimu, and totara produce seeds from their cones, whereas their broadleaf counterparts such as kohekohe and tawa are flowering trees.
• Kauri forests are, as the name suggests, predominately made up of kauri trees. Having once been pervasive in Coromandel, and scattered as far south as Invercargill, our kauri forests have suffered at the hands of both environmental change, boat builders who prized kauri timber, and now a new disease discovered in 2007 called Kauri Dieback disease, as yet there is no known cure.
Now that you’re clued up on your New Zealand forests, you may wish to impress your friends with your newfound knowledge. We can highly recommend a trip to the Waitakere Ranges. A Podocarp-Broadleaf forest with pockets of kauri, you’ll also see plenty of rimu, nikau, pohutukawa, mahoe, and rewarewa. What’s more, there’s some pretty spectacular views out to the Tasman Sea. Go see it for yourself, all the cool kids are doing it.