The March/April issue of Good features a piece called ‘A traditional solution to a modern problem’ on the ring barking of a 427-year-old kauri tree and the events that happened after the incident in a bid to save the tree. In a series of video interviews made by the Save the Kauri corporation, Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng, a senior lecturer in the school of biological sciences at the University of Auckland explains a little more about the kauri’s ecological significance.
Why kauri are so special
Looking at kauri trees from an ecological perspective, these trees stored a huge amount of carbon due to the fact that they grow so large and they live for so long. Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng adds that kauri are amongst the largest trees and the most longest lived trees in the world. The amount of carbon a kauri can store is based on an individual tree’s size – the diameter of the tree as well as its height. Trees are also important for flood mitigation because they collect rainfall on their leaves and buffer water-flow through the landscape. “A single tree can store vast amounts of carbon and will also use large volumes of water each year,” says Dr Macinnis-Ng.
Determining a kauri’s approximate age – ring counting
There are a number of different ways to measure a trees age. In other parts of the world, you can look at the size of a tree and make an accurate indication of their age. However, kauri don’t have a good relationship between their size and age. Many issues surrounding the kauri ageing process include the fact that they are very responsive to climatic changes – so year to year there can be great differences in growth.
Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng shares an interesting anecdote from a trip overseas, about the protection of the trees, including kauri, in comparison to historical buildings and artifacts. Protecting kauri is also important for the survival of other species who live and feed on kauri. A tree the size of Awhi Awhi (from Good issue 47) can support communities of epiphytes, invertebrates, fungi and microbes. Kauri cones are also an important food source for kaka and other parrots and weta.