School of Environment

Our Changing Forests

Humans depend on the ecological services provided by forests, yet forest ecosystems face a wide range of threats such as deforestation, pathogen outbreaks and climate change.  New Zealand’s forests are no different.  At the time of Polynesian settlement in the mid-13th century nearly 90% of the country was forested, but since then forest cover has declined to less than 25% of the land area.  The unique features of NZ indigenous forests alongside these challenges forest ecosystems face provide a rich range of research opportunities. A number of researchers in the School of Environment, especially in the area of environmental science, are involved in activities concerned with the dynamics of forest environments past, present and future.  In a broad sense our research activity in this area encompasses:

  • the long-term dynamics (social, including human impacts and historical context, and ecological) of forest environments
  • interactions between forests and climate (past, present and future)

We use a broad array of methods, including field measurements (stand structural, ecophysiological and biogeochemical), approaches using tree-rings (dendrochronology, dendroclimatology and dendroecology), palaeoecological methods (pollen, charcoal, aDNA) and modelling (statistical and simulation).  



Our research topics

  • Plant-water relations in kauri forests in a changing climate
  • Carbon fluxes in kauri forests
  • Urban forests: above- and belowground carbon accumulation
  • Ecohydrology of plantation forests in South America
  • Watershed response to chronic nitrogen deposition and acidification
  • Dendrological reconstruction of late Holocene drought dynamics using kauri
  • The geography of the kauri timber industry
  • Timing and impact of human settlement of NZ and associated environment transformation such as fire and avifaunal extinction
  • Dynamics of fire-prone landscapes in New Zealand and beyond

Key Staff