Pockets of planted native bush in and around Napier City are helping a group of researchers understand what makes for successful forest restoration in urban settings. Part of the nationwide People+Cities+Nature research programme led by University of Waikato’s Professor Bruce Clarkson, the research will assist the efforts of many councils, community groups and individuals who are working to increase the number and diversity of native plants and animals living within our cities. Kiri Wallace, a scientist with the programme, recently visited Napier as one of the eight cities in which she is selecting field sites.
The idea is to move past landscaping parks and gardens with native (or exotic) trees and bushes, to instead establish native ecosystems that will become self-sustaining – growing denser and more complex as plants self-seed, recovering natural ecosystem processes, and attracting native animals. The Napier-based sites, including Dolbel Reserve and Otatara Park in Taradale, Waitangi Wetlands, Westshore Wildlife Reserve, and the Harakeke Walkway in Maraenui, offer a range of plant species and are of differing ages since planting.
Based on previous studies in Hamilton and New Plymouth, factors that affect successful forest restoration include competition with exotic weeds, the tree species that make up the forest canopy, the climate within the understory. The researchers will identify what works best across New Zealand’s variable climate, and make this information readily available to everyone to improve restoration outcomes.
Ultimately, the research will help create flourishing natural environments to improve the quality of life, health and economic wellbeing in our cities and towns. Native plants and animals will have a better chance of thriving, and urban restoration projects will be more cost effective.
People+Cities+Nature is a joint research programme with the University of Waikato, Landcare Research, the University of Otago and Victoria University, and is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Endeavour Fund. To read more about the research programme, please visit the People+Cities+Nature Facebook page, or download the scientific paper to read about research the programme is founded on.