Kauriland Summit 2021
Theme 3: Risk Assessment &
Q&A / Discussion
What international input do you have in your research Theme?
Our PhD student, Tracey Godfrey, is being supervised by Professor Andrew Robinson (University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis) among others. They have been conducting a very thorough global review of the best frameworks to use for assessing biosecurity risk, which now needs the Māori worldview added before being applied. This will be done via Te Whakahononga engagement with mana whenua groups. So, a framework that is fit for our purposes will be developed with a Māori perspective that takes advantage of the best ideas that Western science has to offer.
We are in a situation where some baseline ecological data has not been collected before now, and we are having to start collecting this. What are your thoughts on the need for this long-term research and how long might it need to go on?
Much of the focus of our research is on kauri, with some Myrtaceae. As kauri is such a long-lived species, already heavily affected by land use history and land use legacy, indicating that long-term monitoring is absolutely fundamental. And it provides a nice opportunity to also talk about that we try to align and maximize efforts eg. surveying and monitoring by local councils, using indicators and approaches that could be rolled out to other sites for longer-term data collection.
We are accessing some pre-existing field sites (with permission from Auckland Council and Te Kawerau ā Maki) where we can use some existing information/data. By having these site location coordinates, and cultural authority agreements in place to protect the data, we hope that it will be possible for future researchers to return and continue this work in the longer-term.
We are also taking a longer-term approach – trying to establish a collection of data now that can be used in the future. Data that we may not be able to analyse now because we have not yet developed the algorithms to sort through the data, but may be useful to someone in the future when we have developed better tools for analysis.
Also collecting new data, eg. identify the signs throughout the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) that different mana whenua groups use to characterise what a healthy forest looks like. Capturing the experience of what being in the forest is like now, so someone 10 years from now can compare those recordings to their experience.
What do you plan to include in the long-term monitoring? Or is that still being developed with mana whenua?
NRT is only funded until July 2023, and with the limited resource available, we can only establish a baseline, and not necessarily do the long-term monitoring ourselves.
This highlights the need for political pressure to ensure continued funding.
On the human side of things – looking at people’s connections to the forest, whether it gives them a greater sense of well-being, whether it supports their cultural or recreational practices and teaching those to younger generations, whether they feel the same connection to the places they value—the assessment is subjective and can only really be captured by the people who experience it themselves. That will require that people are involved in monitoring these connections and values for themselves through some form of citizen science approach. So far, that has not been measured in New Zealand other than unconnected case studies and local efforts. We will need a system that allows a consistent collective national approach, which will be difficult. But creating a system like that could have far wider benefits for measuring all kinds of well-being and ecosystem health beyond just for kauri and Myrtaceae species.
How is the monitoring/surveillance being balanced/considered with not spreading myrtle rust and kauri dieback?
We are very conscious that we want to minimise access to sites due to the potential risk of carrying the pathogen. We have a detailed management plan that has been rigorously tested to confirm that risk is kept to a minimum. e.g. soil samples are collected, then shared among several groups with the correct permits and transfer agreements to minimise people and the possibility for pathogen transfer.
Examples of accidental introduction of pathogens are unfortunately quite commonplace now, and many of them are increasingly invasive and damaging. How will your work help us to understand the behaviour and impact of the diseases as a case study for other future pathogens? Do you think it will have a broader application?
We’re looking at the kauri dominated and Myrtaceae dominated systems as systems where those species are absolutely critical, ecologically and culturally. We’ve aimed for indicators and processes of overall forest health which are not tied to whether it is kauri dieback or myrtle rust, so it could be applied to other pathogens.
Looking into critical processes, which link the above ground with below ground systems that give an indication of health (kauri ora and myrtle ora). For example, communities changing at a molecular microbial community level, an invertebrate level, and also above ground with plant species composition.
The risk assessment framework that Tracey Godfrey is undertaking is being done jointly with Biological Heritage Challenge’s Strategic Objective 3, which is looking at a risk assessment for future pathogens and other invasives. The intent is that kauri dieback and myrtle rust will serve as case studies for this that will develop into a wider more adaptable framework that can be used for other future threats.