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MBIE funds further research into myrtle rust

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has won three Endeavour bids, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Endeavour, for research programmes focusing on bird restoration, ecosystem resilience, and erosion control.

The MBIE Endeavour Fund invests in research projects that aim to transform New Zealand’s future economic performance, and the sustainability and integrity of our environment. A total of $249.1 million has been awarded to 69 new research projects through the 2018 round of the country’s largest contestable research fund.

Manaaki Whenua’s successful programmes, ‘More birds in the bush: large-scale restoration across complex forest’, ‘Beyond myrtle rust: towards ecosystem resilience’, and ‘Smarter targeting of erosion control’, are all focused on significant environmental issues within the New Zealand landscape.

The funding for the ‘Beyond myrtle rust’ research project will complement the significant work Manaaki Whenua is already pursuing in the fight against this devastating fungal pathogen. The Crown Research Institute’s scientists are currently working alongside other organisations to find native New Zealand Myrtaceae species with resistance to myrtle rust to reduce the negative effects on our native myrtle species, such as mānuka, pōhutukawa, ramarama, and rātā.

This work involves collecting seed from a range of rare plants in the myrtle family in the hope of finding resistant plants. The aim is to find seed lines in New Zealand that show resistance to myrtle rust.

In Australia, species extinction across the natural range of the myrtle plants is now becoming apparent. Understanding what current resistance there is in New Zealand’s native plants, and seed banking those plants before the effects of myrtle rust get too bad, is essential to ensure the survival of these culturally and commercially valuable species.

Manaaki Whenua’s MBIE Endeavour Fund research programmes

Research mycologist Dr Mahajabeen Padamsee, helped by researcher Gwen Grelet lead ‘Beyond Myrtle Rust: towards ecosystem resilience’. This research will focus on boosting ecosystem resilience by running ground-level interference of myrtle rust. The programme will centre on filling critical gaps in current efforts to manage myrtle rust, and develop a better understanding of the pathogen dynamics, drivers, and function, with a view to creating resilience within diseased landscapes.

Researcher Dr Susan Walker and researcher Dr Adrian Monks lead ‘More birds in the bush: large-scale restoration across complex forest’. Using new measurement and spatial data to identify drivers and predictors, this research will provide the ability to forecast predator threats and their effects on bird life within different forest types. The aim is to transform the effectiveness and efficiency of the country’s large and growing forest restoration costs, by allowing the right interventions, at the right places and times, to maximise benefits for birds.

Researcher Dr Chris Phillips, helped by researcher Dr Les Basher leadSmarter targeting of erosion control’ which will focus on the need of regional councils and land managers to have higher-resolution data on catchment erosion and sediment delivery to streams, and new tools and models that provide information at appropriate scales. These are essential for efficient and cost-effective erosion and sediment mitigation and will help plan for the predicted increase in wild weather as a result of climate change. This research will enable a breakthrough in the design and implementation of cost-effective, targeted erosion control measures, which is crucial for meeting national water-quality targets.

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