New Zealand’s planted forests provide important services to society
New Zealand’s 1.72 million hectares of planted forests constitute a productive ecosystem mainly recognised for the provision of wood and fibre. The New Zealand planted forest ecosystem is also increasingly recognised for its contribution to the country’s economic prosperity, environmental conservation and human well-being.
The above services can be categorised into four groups: provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services (Figure 1).
Provisioning services refer to the products derived from a planted forest ecosystem such as logs, processed wood, fibre, and fuel. Forest products contribute directly to gross domestic product (GDP) mainly through export earnings and domestic sales. Planted forests also provide a place to grow high value crops, for example, simulated wild ginseng is grown underneath pine forests in the Central North Island region. Ginseng is a Chinese medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years. The simulated wild ginseng is organically grown and dug by hand. This makes it labour intensive to produce, therefore creating employment opportunities in the region (Scion 2013). Planted forests also provide local benefits such as water filtration to help provide drinking water to some rural communities and raw materials that can be used to generate heat and power for other primary industries.
Regulating services are ‘the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes’. Planted forests provide regulating services such as reducing erosion, carbon sequestration, improved water quality, and flood mitigation. For example, a site in the central North Island can sequester 918 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare over a 28-year harvesting rotation, including above- and below-ground biomass and the litter layer. Studies provide strong evidence that planted forests stabilise soil (especially on steep slopes) and consequently reduce soil erosion.
Cultural services are the non-material benefits obtained from an ecosystem, such as recreation, aesthetic experience, spiritual enrichment, appreciation of biodiversity, and conservation. Several planted forests in New Zealand provide recreational opportunities to the local people and tourists who visit them, including walking, mountain biking, horse riding, running, and exercising dogs (Figure 2). Some businesses have invested in new facilities for four-wheel driving, paintballing, and flying-fox adventures in the Woodhill Forest, a planted forest in West Auckland. This 12 500-hectare planted forest is also popular for hunting, horse riding and motocross.
Supporting services are the biological, chemical, and physical processes that underlie the provision of the other three groups of services described above. Examples of these supporting services include soil formation, nutrient cycling, water regulation, and oxygen production. Supporting services indirectly affect society, as their impacts on people occur over a very long time. These services can be quantified and valued, but care should be considered in adding these values with the first three ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating and cultural) to avoided double counting.
New Zealand’s planted forest ecosystem is more than just a source of products such as timber and pulp that have market values. It also offers other important services to society such as recreation, reduced erosion, and habitat provision that do not have market values. The book chapter by Yao et al. (2013) highlights that planted forests provide both market and non- market values and that these values should be recognised and sustained in order to enhance human well-being and conserve the environment while improving economic prosperity.
Scion 2013. Ngati Rereahu – Scoping ginseng potential in the Central North Island. Report prepared for Maraeroa C Incorporation.
Yao RT, Barry LE, Wakelin SJ, Harrison DR, Magnard LA, Payn TW 2013. Planted forests. In: Dymond J ed. Ecosystem services in New Zealand: conditions and trends. Lincoln, Manaaki Whenua Press. Pp. 62–78.
Richard Yao — SCION Research
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