What is kauri dieback and why is it important?
As one of the largest trees in the world, the kauri is a point of pride for New Zealand. It is wrapped up in Maori legend, and is a popular Auckland tourist attraction – as well as one for locals.
Sadly, however, the kauri tree is plagued by a disease that has killed thousands of these forest giants in the last decade.
What is kauri dieback?
Scientists and conservationists spent a long time trying to understand the cause behind the death of so many kauri trees. In 2008, phytophthora taxon Agathis (or PTA) was formally identified.
PTA is specific to kauri trees alone, and it can affect a tree of any age.
Researchers are still working to understand the phenomena now known as kauri dieback, but for now it is known that an infected tree will almost certainly be killed, and that the spores enter the tree through the soil and roots, interrupting the flow of nutrients to the kauri.
Infected trees may lose their leaves, have thin canopies, show yellowing in the foliage or bleed gum at the base of the trunk, according to informative website kauridieback.
How can we avoid kauri dieback?
At this stage, there is no known treatment for the disease, but there are many things we can do on nature tours to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback.
While on a day tour to Tawharanui, we stop to show you one of these beautiful kauri trees. First, you will notice that there is a large boardwalk around the base of the tree. This is a measure that’s put in place around New Zealand to help protect the roots from becoming infected from spores on our shoes.
Staying off kauri roots, and on the walking tracks is a start, but during any eco tour around New Zealand you will notice small spray stations at the start and finish of any track. Here, you must spray and scrub your shoes with the tools provided to further help prevent the spread of the PTA disease.
Research into the matter continues, both with government pledges such as a $26.5 million fund set aside in 2014, as well as private donations from conservationists.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist