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Carbon Research Study at CUE Haven

September 30, 2019

The CUE Haven Trust deed states that the property is to be used by the community for education and quiet enjoyment and we are always delighted to have students use the space for education and research.

And it is extra special when the researcher is someone who has been associated with CUE Haven as a volunteer.  Molly D’Ath had stayed and worked for a week at CUE Haven in 2014 for her Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award, gold award residential program.  Molly is now doing her Masters in Environmental Science at The University of Auckland and we were delighted when Molly contacted us to request if she could do her thesis research at CUE Haven.

Molly is investigating the relationship between soil carbon and other soil characteristics in a restored native forest. Carbon sequestration is a critical measure to assess how planting trees can impact greenhouse gases.  CUE Haven is an ideal test site for this research, because of the compact size and because we can readily identify the years in which each areas was restored from pasture to native forest.

Molly began her desk-top study on the CUE Haven site earlier this year and last Friday, she came back to CUE Haven with her supervisors, Dr Luitgard Schwendenmann, Associate Professor, School of Environment, and Dr Katarzyna Sila-Nowicka, lecturer in Geographic Information Sciences, and fellow student Emily Wexler, to get started on the field work.

The field work will involve collecting soil samples across the property.  The samples will be from historical bush on the property and each of the areas that have been planted since 2008.  As a control, samples will also be taken from open pasture on a neighbouring property to gain an idea of what the soil conditions at the beginning of restoration would have been like.

The samples will then be analysed for chemical and physical characteristics such as bulk density, grain size, pH and nitrogen and carbon content. The spatial distribution of these characteristics will then be mapped. Any differences between soil conditions in different aged stands will be examined to see if any increases in below ground carbon stocks are present as well as any trends for other characteristics.

The team arrived early morning and after introductions and morning tea, set to work.

Everyone cleaned and sprayed their shoes with Trigene before heading out to the field.

Dr Schwendenmann is an ecosystem ecologist specialising in the cycling of carbon and water in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum and at the first collection site, she instructed Molly on the techniques for collecting the soil samples.

The sampling process involves recording the GPS coordinates of the site, noting the characteristics of the area (e.g., terrain, type of vegetation) and using a coring tool to obtain a soil sample from various depths up to 30 cm.

The team then moved deeper into the bush for the next sample.

Dr Schwendenmann watched as Molly collected and labelled the samples.

One of the challenges with collecting soil samples in mature bush is determining where the layer of leaf litter ends and where the soil starts.

Dr Sila-Nowicka, whose specialisation includes spatial analysis and statistics, instructed Molly on how to best capture the spatial data.

The team spent over half the day visiting and inspecting several areas on the property. Molly’s research will involve taking over 150 soil samples, so she will be back with another student over the coming weeks to complete the sample collection phase.

We look forward to supporting Molly’s data collection activities and learning the results of the research, and having Drs Schwendenmann and Sila-Nowicka back out to CUE Haven to conduct more research projects.

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