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Botany Department leading One Billion Trees project

Supporting One Billion Trees are Botany's Associate Professor Janice Lord (left),  PhD candidate Laura van Galen and Dr Matt Larcombe.

Aotearoa’s One Billion Trees programme is working with the University of Otago’s Department of Botany to deliver a project looking to establish large tracts of native forest directly from seeds.

“Starting from seed is an obvious thing to do, as it circumvents the time-consuming process of growing plants in nurseries that can be very expensive, especially when dealing with large areas,” Associate Professor Janice Lord says.

“As an agricultural country, we can access the best innovations and expertise from our grass seed and forestry industries and apply these to growing native species like beech.”

Support from Te Uru Rākau’s One Billion Trees Partnerships Fund of $825k over three years has launched the Reforestation from Seeds project Ngā Kākano Whakahau (NKW).

The collaboration between the University of Otago, QEII Trust, Department of Conservation and Taege Engineering, is led by Associate Professor Janice Lord, together with Botany Department colleagues Dr Matt Larcombe and Associate Professor David Orlovich.

Masters student Lydia Turley helps with sowing at Laura’s plots at Mahu Whenua.

Major trials for NKW have commenced at Mahu Whenua, an area of 55,000 hectares between Lake Wanaka and the Shotover River, most of which was placed into QEII Trust covenants in 2015.

Associate Professor Lord has been involved in research at Mahu Whenua since 2015, and she says NKW was only made possible by the relationships built with stakeholders. It is the biggest funded project that has come from work at Mahu Whenua.

“This project is all about people and relationships, and I think if you work with people you believe in, it leads to good things with much greater depth.”

Botany PhD candidate Laura van Galen with approx. 1.5 million beech seeds she has collected for her research.

As part of the project, Botany PhD candidate Laura van Galen is currently undertaking beech seed trials at the site which involves sowing thousands of seeds in trial plots under various conditions.

A focus of Miss van Galen’s research is assessing the role of ectomycorrhizal fungi that has a mutually obligate relationship with beech trees, and her work will generate valuable information on factors affecting beech seedling germination and survival rates in grasslands.

In the same area, Associate Professor Lord and Department of Conservation are trialling the sowing of mānuka, hebe, coprosma and other cover crops into previously grazed pasture using a seed drill, to research their effectiveness as nursery species for the establishment of slower growing native trees like beech.

Associate Professor Lord says that more than at any other time in her career, if feels like she is doing something really worthwhile.

“This is a really practical project and engages with the challenge of reforestation and carbon sequestration which is something that is both timely and necessary.

“These projects at Mahu Whenua will also allow our undergrad classes to learn in the field and apply what we are learning to the very real environmental and climate-related challenges currently facing Aotearoa.”

To find out more about the One Billion Trees Partnerships Fund, and how it’s benefiting communities around Aotearoa, please visit Te Uru Rākau’s website.