Climate change: direct measures’ to adapt

Friday 4 Aug 2023

Just two in 10 of NZ forest growers are taking direct measures to adapt to climate change, a first-of-its-kind study suggests.

That’s despite most foresters having a good awareness of climate-driven risks – from new pests and diseases to extreme weather and wildfire – increasingly facing our industry and its billions of dollars of assets.

Recent years have already brought a slew of disasters that a changing climate is likely to bring more of: notably the destructive 2019 Pigeon Valley fire, the following year’s Lake Ōhau blaze, and February’s Cyclone Gabrielle, which damaged swathes of North Island forestry and sent tonnes of silt and slash into East Coast rivers.

But the new Scion-led research marked the first time that our third largest export-earning sector has been canvassed on climate adaptation. To date, study leader Dr Grace Villamor said, most climate-related research on forestry had instead been focused on how it could help lower net emissions.

“Preparing for the effects of climate change is an important part of making our forests more resilient, and so we were interested to know more about what forest managers are doing.”

Over three months in 2021, her team surveyed 60 growers from organisations that collectively manage more than 70 per cent of our plantation forests. They were asked about how they thought they’d be affected by climate change, what they worried about most, how they were adapting, and what barriers were stopping them.

About 60 per cent of respondents thought it would worsen the impact of pests and diseases, while making wildfires more frequent. Yet fewer than half thought climate change would affect their forest growing – and just 21 per cent were taking direct adaptation measures.

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Source: NZ Herald

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