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Botanical Medical For Far North Forests

Department of Conservation staff have given the Far North forests of Raetea and Maungataniwha a medical of botanical proportions that is to be repeated every year.

The forest health check was carried out by two staff members who spent much of the autumn peering at the foliage of over 200 specially selected trees being used to measure the effectiveness of wild animal control in the area.

The baseline survey will be repeated each year to determine how much browsing possums have done on the specially selected trees that include the “ice-cream” species of Mahoe, Kohekohe, Rata and Pate

Vegetation monitoring officers Mel Whiting and Miriam Ritchie said these tree species have been chosen as they are particularly attractive to possums, so knowing how healthy they are will give a good idea of how effective the reduction in possum numbers has been.

The pair, along with a number of other staff, have spent many days peering at the tops of trees with powerful binoculars and became a regular sight along State Highway 1 running through the forest.

“I know there must have been a few people wondering what we were up to!,” Ms Whiting said.

“A crick in your neck, some serious bush bashing and some fairly bad weather are just some of the occupational hazards,” Ms Ritchie said.

The work also involved clambering up hillsides through dense forest to measure trees that were not quite so accessible.

“We needed to get a good representation of trees throughout the forests so that we can extrapolate more effectively how effectively possum control has been,” she added.

Half the trees are located in a part of the forest that is to undergo possum control and the other half in area where nothing is to take place.

“The rata in particular is a very prominent species in that forest and is readily visible around Christmas when it flowers,” she said.

The monitoring of the Raetea/Maungataniwha Forest is one of a number being checked around Northland.

Vegetation monitoring is starting to show some good results in forests around the region including Bream Head, Mt Manaia, Te Paki, Trounson, Lady Alice Island and Waipoua.

“All this information is giving us a very good picture of how important possum control is in the restoration of the forest,” Ms Whiting said.

“We will be back again next year for another health check but in the meantime comes the less thrilling part of the job which is entering all the data into the computer and working out some of the trends,” she added.


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