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SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies—12 June 2019

June 13, 2019
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The School for Field Studies (SFS) is a US-based global organisation that provides students with overseas study opportunities in a variety of ecological settings. The SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies, based in Australia, features a programme of study that includes a visit to New Zealand where students can learn about New Zealand’s temperate rain forests.

Since 2014, the students’ New Zealand trip has included a visit to CUE Haven.  The group arrived just before lunch and included students Alexander, Ally, Alyssa, Ashley M., Ashley R, Ayla, Bethany, Chelsea, Claire, Damon, Devon, Emily, Gianna, Grace, Hannah Mi., Hannah Mo., Hillary, Juliana D., Katie, Kimmi, Michael, Nicolas, Nishi, Railey, Rosie and Stephanie.

The group was led by Centre Director Amanda Freeman, Professor of Rainforest Studies Sigrid Heise-Pavloc and staff members Erin De Luca and Michael Kowalski.

We started off by getting acquainted over morning tea. Mahrukh gave an overview of the CUE Haven project and some background information about ecological restoration.

Thomas described the work the students would be doing during their stay and also gave a safety briefing.

The plan for the day was to do some planting in an area of the property that had previously been too wet for planting.  As a result of our planting work upstream, the ground has dried out and become a nice habitat for pukatea and kahikatea – the only two native canopy trees that grow in the wetlands as they have buttressed roots.  In addition to the planting work, the students also helped do some weed control and trimming of vegetation growing over the walking tracks and pruned trees in the orchard.

The work gave the students an opportunity to see a lot of the property and observe a number of characteristics of New Zealand forests and to also learn a little more about environmental restoration.

Because the students have been visiting a number of forested sites around the North Island, we asked them to clean and spray their boots before heading into the field to prevent the spread of the pathogen that is killing the native kauri trees.

Because of the size of the group we broke into two teams.  The first team, made up of about two thirds of the participants started out by doing the planting.

The plants were already on site and we took the short walk to the site.  On the walk,  Thomas explained the geography and features of the property and the wetlands and explained some of the challenges restoring the property and rehabilitating the wetlands.

Once on site, Sigrid and Erin supervised the planting team as they all worked.

In just a couple of hours, the team managed to plant all the trees we had for them.  The area will turn into a beautiful grove of forest giants that will live for hundreds of years.

While the planting team was busy, the other smaller team worked on a variety of weed and vegetation control tasks.

There is an invasive weed called pampas which had taken over in the area where we had a major land slip in August 2016.  Aside from being a seed source for further infestation, the pampas crowds out natives and prevents self seeding of native plants.  The only solution is to cut off the seed heads and chop out as much of the plant as possible, but you also have to be careful because there may be desirable plants like flaxes and cabbage trees mixed in with the pampas.  Another challenge is that pampas fights back—it has sharp edged leaves that can scratch unless you wear gloves and long sleeves.

The team headed by Amanda and Michael took up the challenge and went to work and cleared the entire area of pampas.

In spite of all the challenges, the team kept smiling and managed to clear the entire area of pampas.  We will spray the remaining bits and replant the area with native trees next year.

Another challenging job was to clear away a tree which had fallen across the walking track.  Last week we had a wind storm which brought down a few branches, but the biggest issue was a mature kanuka which was blocking the track.

It was a job that required strength and care because you have to study the way the branches have fallen and anticipate which way they will move when they are cut.  Thomas worked with Nick sawing and chopping the sections with help from some of the other team members too.

It was a huge effort, but the walking track is now safe for visitors.

The team also pruned the fruit trees in the orchard.  Each autumn and winter the trees need to be cut back to improve the fruit yield.

While the smaller team worked in the orchard and clearing the fallen tree, after lunch the planting group went up to the top of the property and worked their way down trimming trees along the track until they finally met up with the smaller team who were working their way up after clearing the fallen tree.

It was a short visit but the group accomplished an amazing amount of work.   We were very impressed with the enthusiastic group who were very keen to learn and worked really hard to accomplish all the tasks.

Our thanks to Amanda Freeman, SFS Centre Director, for once again arranging the visit.  We really enjoy having the SFS students and staff at CUE Haven and value our relationship and do so appreciate your continued support.

And also many thanks to SFS staff Sigrid, Erin and Michael for their help on site and ensuring things went smoothly.

And a very BIG THANK YOU to all the students.  It was great meeting all of you and working with you. We were very impressed by your enthusiasm, motivation and interest in CUE Haven and in NZ native flora and fauna.

You have all made a major contribution not only to the CUE Haven restoration project but also to our planet. The pampas eradication will allow more native trees to get established and trimming back the overgrowing vegetation will ensure that the trees flower and fruit more next season. Plus visitors will be able to explore the area more comfortably.  The canopy trees will create a long living sustainable habitat and provide food and shelter for a variety of plant and bird life over the years. And also provide educational opportunities and enjoyment to generations of visitors.  What a fantastic legacy!! Thank you!

We wish you all good luck and much success and happiness in your future endeavours.  We do hope you will keep in touch and come back to visit us at CUE Haven and enjoy your community native forest reserve you have helped create.

Thank you!!  Thank you!!


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