Restoring ‘Critically Endangered’ swamp maire forest

Restoring ‘Critically Endangered’ swamp maire forest

Kessels Ecology is often engaged to undertake Ecological Assessments and provide Restoration Management Plans for landowners. A recent example involved the restoration of a swamp maire forest remnant in the Hunua Ecological District, south of Auckland.

Swamp forests with kahikatea, pukatea and swamp maire are now often scarce or absent over large parts of their former range due to the clearance of swamp forest for agriculture. Swamp maire and kahikatea have bird-dispersed fruits, and these forests would have been seasonally significant resources for many species (e.g. tui and kereru). Remnants, such as this example, have characteristically had kahikatea harvested from them and are now dominated by swamp maire, pukatea, kiekie and supplejack.

Swamp maire as a forest class in the Auckland Ecological Region is now considered to be uncommon with a Regional Status for the species itself being ‘Gradual Decline’. In the Hunua Ecological District, only four sites have been recorded, totalling 10 hectares. Kahikatea-pukatea-swamp maire forest has also been assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ using the recently developed system for assessing the status of ecosystems by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The Restoration Management Plan for this site involved weed and willow control, infill planting in wet areas (0.195 ha) including over 90 additional swamp maire, and restoration buffer planting of the surrounding pasture (1.208 ha) with approximately 9,143 indigenous plants.

Spotless crake, an ‘At Risk’ – Declining freshwater wetland bird, was heard at the site.

Protecting what we have left is a key part of conservation, but to achieve lasting benefits, we also have to restore some of what we have lost.