SFF Project Summary

Project Title: National survey of indigenous plantations for carbon accounting
Grant No.: C08/036

Contact Details

Name of Applicant Group: T?NES TREE TRUST
Contact Person: Ian Barton
Address: PO Box 12094
Hamilton 3248
Telephone 1: 09 239 2049
Telephone 2:
Facsimile: 09 239 2049
Email: ibtrees@wc.net.nz

Project Details

Status: finished
SFF Funding: 169,470
Total Project Funding: 266,970
Proposed Start Date: 2008-07
Proposed Finish Date: 2011-06
Region: National
Sector: Forestry
Topic: Climate change

Last updated: 27 February 2012

Final report

Latest update

Related website links:


Project description

High quality information on growth rates and management practices that will lead accurate determination of carbon sequestration potential is required for the major indigenous timber tree species. To obtain this, it will be necessary to assess key plantations previously surveyed, as well as additional plantations since located. This will require working closely with environmental groups, local authorities, and private landowners to locate the estimated hundreds of additional significant areas of indigenous plantings that have been established over the last 2-3 decades.

This proposed plantation survey will provide data suitable for developing models of height and diameter growth rates, stem volume functions and wood densities for plantations of the key indigenous tree species. These models will be suitable for incorporating into systems for predicting carbon sequestration such as the C-Change model (Beets et al. 1999). The project outcomes will also be relevant to estimating growth rates and carbon sequestration for naturally regenerating stands of indigenous scrub and forest species.

The issue/opportunity

The main issue is that there is very little data available on the growth rates of indigenous trees which are being sustainably manage, whether natural stands or planted ones. The opportunity exists, through the contacts of Tāne's Tree Trust to institute a nation wide survey in order to redress this problem. The objective is to provide growth rate data for as wide a number of indigenous species as possible, within the funding rate and time frame available.

The context/background

Climate Change issues and the need to be able to measure rates of sequestration for a wide range of species makes this project very important; especially as far as indigenous species are concerned because there is little empirical information available.

Preliminary calculations suggest that over the past 150 years, at least 80 million seedlings of indigenous timber trees have been planted throughout New Zealand for a wide range of reasons. Substantial planting programmes involving hundreds of thousands of seedlings were established by the Lands Department even before 1900 and these were continued with various levels of intensity by the NZ Forest Service up to the 1980s. Most local authorities have planted indigenous trees in parks and gardens for over a century; many stands still existing today. Over the last decade, planting of indigenous timber species by private individuals and public organisations has increased exponentially and a conservative estimate of the number of indigenous trees and shrubs currently being planted is at least 10 million per year.

There is no nationwide comprehensive assessment of these planting programmes, both historical and present, and therefore no evaluation of the role that plantings of indigenous trees have in carbon sequestration.


Carbon accounting

This project focuses on collecting data from a wide range of planted indigenous tree and shrub species critical for developing and refining carbon accounting and climate change models for indigenous woody flora. This includes:

Survey of planted stands

Data compilation, analysis, and communication

Complementary projects

The sample plot portion of the project is linked strongly to another Tāne's Tree Trust project - "Establishment of a National Interactive Database for the management of planted native forests" - for which the Trust is currently seeking funding from FIDA. Because there will be considerable overlap between these two projects in the area of sample plot establishment, the Trust has include $10,000 per year for three years from the FIDA programme as cross funding for this one (see Where the Funds will come from). If our application to FIDA is successful we will provide SFF with as copy of our agreement with them.

This project also links to the kauri growth modelling one being undertaken by Greg Steward of Scion. While the details of this are yet to be finalised there will be an overlap as far as growth data on kauri is concerned.

Latest update

Field work for the indigenous plantation survey is complete.

Over 200 plots have been established in 81 plantations – 8475 trees measured ranging in age from 3-113 years. Key species assessed include:

Entry of growth and stand management information to the TTT Indigenous Plantation Database is completed for all stands measured and will be used to develop summary tables for the major planted species which will be available on the TTT Website. Work on four technical articles for the TTT Handbook has been initiated now that data analysis is completed.


Over 100 plots have been established in 50 plantations - over 6000 trees measured ranging in age from 3-90 years. Key species assessed include:-

indigenous conifer trees - kauri, totara, rimu, kahikatea, tanekaha, matai, miro

indigenous hardwood trees - black/mountain beech, red beech, silver beech, puriri, rewarewa, kohekohe, taraire, lacebark, maire, kanuka, kowhai

indigenous shrub hardwoods and monocots - karamu, kohuhu, ti kouka, manuka, tarata, karo, ngaio, fivefinger, akeake, ribbonwood.

Four technical articles are being prepared for the Trust’s Handbook covering the scope and extent of the indigenous plantation survey, summaries of results for growth and management of planted indigenous trees and shrubs, implications for carbon accounting, and ongoing monitoring of planted stands.


Up to 80 plots have been established to date in planted stands of a wide range of indigenous tree and shrub species throughout the country across approximately 40 sites from Northland to Southland. These are mostly inventory plots for younger stands and for shrub hardwood species with Permanent Sample Plots established in significant stands of native trees that are at least 10 years old. Up to 4 sections are being planned for the Tānes Tree Trust Technical Handbook covering this survey including methodology, spread of plantations nationwide, range of species planted, and growth performance and management histories.


During this last period 200 wood samples (cores and discs) have been taken for wood density/carbon accounting - mainly for shrub hardwoods (e.g., manuka, kanuka, karamu, kohuhu, tarata, ti kouka,) and deposited with Scion Wood Quality Section. Further plantations were inspected in March - June and PSPs or growth plots established. So far 38 are complete and the number of trees measured to date equals 4969 (age 3-90+ years).


Fieldwork is well underway to inspect and assess most of the stands identified from the over 100 responses to a survey on indigenous plantations nationwide. The Tane’s Tree Trust Indigenous Database has been set up and data collation is continuing for inclusion in this database. Progress to date will be presented at the TTT 10th Anniversary Conference in November 2009.


Work began on the collection of planted native tree data during a visit to the South Island by David Bergin in April 2009. This information, and information from other sources, is entered into the database as it is collected. A workshop has not been held, but the subject will be discussed at the Trust’s Ten year conference in November. A display on this project will be included in the Conference.

A collateral project is the entry of the data collected into the National PSP Database operated by Scion, which is funded by FIDA. In addition, the Trust has set up its own database in order to record planted stands which are not suitable for entry into the PSP Database - usually because the stands are too small.


This project aims to provide high quality information on growth rates and management practices that will lead to accurate determination of carbon sequestration potential for planted major indigenous timber tree species. The project involves locating and assessing key plantations and providing data suitable for developing models of height and diameter growth rates stem volume functions and wood densities for plantations of the key indigenous tree species. The outcome will include growth rates and volume information for a significant number of indigenous species (e.g., rimu, kahikatea, matai, miro, tanekaha, beech spp., puriri, kohekohe, rewarewa, pohutukawa).

Significant areas of steep hill country is expected to either be planted with or revert to indigenous forest over the next 10-50 years and much of this will be managed using continuous cover principles. The results from this project will underpin management of these future forests and enable, amongst other things, the accurate calculation of carbon stocks.

Progress to date includes the completion of a comprehensive workplan, initiating promotion of the project to locate key significant stands for field inspection, remeasurement of any existing plots, and establishment of new plots including PSPs; interrogation of historical files and stand records for location and performance of existing stands and completion of a survey form for wide scale circulation by email and post to identify any other existing indigenous plantations.