Puruki: Our most productive forest for 50 years

Wednesday 25 Aug 2021

New Zealand’s most productive forest – New Zealand has a small number of ‘experimental forests’ reserved for research. The Scion-managed Puruki Experimental Forest (Puruki) is the jewel in the crown. Data and models from Puruki underpin almost every management decision modern forestry companies make today; something never even imagined at the time the forest was established.

Given our changing climate, it is urgent we understand the functions of forests in a wider landscape. Forests are central to New Zealand’s solution for improving water quality, carbon storage, landscape multifunctionality, and biodiversity. Experimental forests are necessary to demonstrate possibilities at scale, to provide data that validates our models, and to help researchers understand impacts of a warming climate on forest health, resilience, and productivity. They are also a place to demonstrate new and sustainable forestry practices that can shape and transform future forest management, leading to new forest designs tailored to products, for example, short rotation species for biobased plastics or fuels.

Long-term access to experimental forests like Puruki is essential to carry out the science that will help to realise New Zealand’s opportunity for more biobased products and answer key questions for our nation’s future.

The beginning - Puruki forest is located in the central volcanic plateau of the North Island. The forest is part of the Purukohukohu Experimental Basin established in 1968 in response to a call by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) initiative to address a global decline in freshwater resources.

An ambitious programme of long-term research was established to understand the effects of land use change on local hydrology and derived volcanic soils. The land that is now Puruki forest was converted from pasture to forest in 1973, then harvested and replanted with second rotation pine forest in 1997. The second rotation is now 24 years old and approaching harvest.

Highlights from 50 years of research

Source: Scion Research

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