Mega mast: South Island forests threatened

Pictured: The mohua/yellowhead is featured on the back of the New Zealand $100 note. Picture is supplied.

Central Otago Lakes Forest and Bird is hosting a talk on July 17 to discuss Department of Conservation’s (DOC) confirmation of New Zealand’s mega-mast seeding event this summer. Forest and Bird’s chief conservation advisor Kevin Hackwell will cover what happens when heavy seeding influences the predator plague cycle and what options are available.

Due to recent and unusually hot summers, trees, especially beech, are overloaded with seed; beech masting is the mass fruiting of beech trees triggered by a summer warmer than the previous one.

DOC said results from NZ seed sampling point to the country’s biggest beech mast in more than 40 years with exceptionally heavy loads predicted in South Island forests. Forest seeding provides a plethora of food for native species, and what typically follows is an influx of rodents that pose a significant threat to native birds and other wildlife.

“This is the lull before the storm because when that seed food supply is exhausted, the predators turn their attention to native birds with a disastrous outcome for many of the already declining species,” said Central Otago Lakes Forest and Bird’s Ben Goddard.

DOC said if their team does not act on the threat, NZ could lose bird species like the tree-hole nesting orange-fronted parakeet and mohua as well as bats.

Next Wednesday’s talk will be at 7pm in St John’s Rooms.


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