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Climate change increases value of native plant

Climate change increases value of Kiwi native plant

The golden sand sedge – pingao – has won the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s 2009 favourite plant poll, and could be a valuable defence against climate change effects.

The pingao topped more than 100 species in the annual poll. Network President Philippa Crisp said that pingao would become increasingly important in combating the effects of climate change, particularly as an increasing number of coastal homes came under threat

“If the global plan to fight climate change stalls and sea level rises occur, pingao will become even more important to New Zealanders because it plays an important role in stabilising sand dunes and creating a beach contour that is not so vulnerable to storm events and sea level rises,” Dr Crisp said. “Pingao may be our only sustainable hope for coastal protection”.

Thousands of votes were cast in the online poll, which closed 6pm yesterday. The top ten included three species on the verge of extinction – Bartlett’s rata (native to the far north), kakabeak (from the East Coast) and the fish guts plant (from Canterbury and Otago). It also included pohutukawa, two species of rata and the tree nettle – famous for having killed a tramper in the 1960s.

“Fans of the tree nettle fought hard as they wanted to protect the habitat it provides for the red admiral butterfly,” said Dr Crisp.

Pingao (or pikao as it is known in Otago) was also important because the yellow-green to orange leaves, when dried were used by Maori for weaving, Dr Crisp noted. Parts of the plant (fresh or dried) were also said to have medicinal properties.



Results of the poll and voters’ comments can be viewed on the Network’s new on-line plant encyclopaedia launched today (www.nzpcn.org.nz), which stores images and information about more than six thousand plant species.

“Built with Government assistance, this on-line encyclopaedia is the primary reference point for people wanting to learn more about plants,” said Dr Crisp.

The Network’s website receives more than half a million visitors each year.

ENDS

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