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The current and future potential of contingency species to mitigate biosecurity risk for the New Zealand forest sector

By Heidi Dungey, Toby Stovold, Christine Dodunski and Lindsay Bulman, December 2020.

Download SWP-T122- (pdf)

Executive summary

The problem

In 1969 radiata pine made up 54% of the planted forest estate, including eucalypts, larch, Corsican pine, Ponderosa pine, Austrian pine, and Douglas-fir; today radiata pine comprises over 90%.

The Forest Growers Science and Innovation Strategy and the Forest Biosecurity Committee Forest Biosecurity Strategy to 2030 both recognise that the New Zealand forest industry is highly reliant on radiata pine and to a lesser extent, Douglas-fir. The biosecurity risk associated with a single species has not been evaluated, recently (e.g., MacLaren 2004), more focussing on the general biosecurity risks (Brockerhoff and Bulman 2014). This has resulted in uncertainty around the need for risk mitigations such as species diversification and the extent and timing of adoption of those mitigations.

As a result, the Herron et al. (2020) biosecurity report was commissioned and completed.

Forest Growers are now interested in understanding the availability and potential of contingency species for radiata pine as part of their risk analysis.

Client initiatives

The industry wants an evaluation of the current biosecurity risk facing the radiata pine and Douglas-fir estates and whether the risk is increasing compared with previous estimates.

This project

  1. Identify potential contingency specie(s) in the event of a significant and serious biosecurity event impacting our commercial radiata pine and Douglas-fir forests that takes account of known performance in NZ, site limitations, silvicultural considerations, disease and pest limitations and ability to deal with changing climatic conditions. The selections should be further prioritised by consideration of wood properties, market uses and ability to fit into existing industrial scale market supply chains, potential for genetic improvement and lead times.
  2. For the potential contingency species, undertake a stock take of genetic resources here in NZ, the security of the genetic resources, seed sources and a status summary of growing from nursery through to establishment including weed control and what would be needed to scale up to commercial scale plantings and timeframes. Hybrids in pines and other species should be included.
  3. Other species have the potential to meet alternative market opportunities that cannot be satisfied with radiata or Douglas-fir – active research is currently limited to redwoods, cypress species and hybrids, Eucalyptus nitens, Eucalyptus fastigata, Eucalyptus regnans and the selection of naturally durable Eucalyptus species in the NZ Dryland Forests Initiative program. There is also research into native species establishment and totara management in Northland and a poplar breeding program run through Plant & Food Research that the industry has limited engagement with. Based on known performance in New Zealand, are there other species that should be added and are there any in the current research program that should be dropped? A similar stocktake of the security of seed sources, genetic improvement status, wood quality and end use/market demand/acceptance issues should be included.
  4. The project will need to include input from other parties who have trials and knowledge of other species in New Zealand including Farm Forestry Association, NZDFI, NZ Redwood Company, Plant & Food Research and Tane’s Tree Trust.

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