Lawmakers have called for a ban on the “mining” of an ancient New Zealand timber resource after a government report Monday showed that half of it might have already disappeared.
The report showed that an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of swamp kauri logs – massive logs of New Zealand’s native kauri hardwood that have been preserved in peat land for thousands of years – have been removed from the ground.
It was one of three reports on swamp kauri, which is found in the far northern Northland region, published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on Monday.
The reports provided information on the scientific and cultural values of swamp kauri and its distribution and remaining volume.
“This is the first time an attempt has been made to assess the swamp kauri resource,” MPI director general of regulation and assurance Bryan Wilson said in a statement.
The reports also said that swamp kauri held significant value for New Zealanders, due to its age, appearance, and its cultural properties.
“They also highlight swamp kauri’s scientific value in helping to understand the natural history of New Zealand, and its contribution to understanding the effects of climate change,” said Wilson.
A set of newly published studies evaluated nearly forty years of data on the impacts of biomass utilization on soil, tree, and plant recovery and found minimal impact using certain forest harvesting techniques.
The experiments, initiated in 1974, were conducted by scientists from the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station on the Coram Experimental Forest, located in Northwestern Montana. In order to evaluate the ecological consequences of large-scale biomass harvesting, scientists implemented three different tree removal techniques on the landscape – group selection (remove small groups of trees), clearcut (remove all timber), and shelterwood (retain some trees for shade and structure) – all using cable logging. On all three sites the soil was left relatively undisturbed from the harvesting and varying amounts of downed wood were left to promote soil organic matter and wildlife habitat. For some sites, prescribed fire was applied to reduce fuels and fire danger. Scientists then tracked these sites over 38 years to provide a contemporary look at the long-term impacts of biomass utilization on forest productivity (e.g., tree growth).