Types of Forest
We have two main types of forest in New Zealand – Beech forest and Podocarp/Broadleaf forest.
The beech forests are the largest native forests remaining in New Zealand. Many were spared being burnt or cut down because the land they grow on is often steep and mountainous, so it is not good for farming or building houses on.
• There are five different types of beech tree which make up our beech forests - red, silver, black, hard and mountain beech.
• There are large beech forests in the South Island, and in some higher parts of the North Island, like in Tongariro National Park.
• Their canopy is made up with one or more species of beech, there are not many vines and there aren’t many plants growing underneath the beech trees.
Podocarp/broadleaf forests have a wide variety of plants growing in them:
• Podocarp trees have been around ever since the dinosaurs and are some of the largest trees in our forests. Examples of podocarps are rimu, totara, kahikatea, miro and matai.
• Broadleaf trees are the trees that aren't beech, podocarp or conifer (kauri). Some examples of broadleaf trees are rata, tawa and rewarewa.
• There are many different plants in New Zealand’s podocarp/broadleaf forests. They change as you travel from north to south.
• Particularly in the north, New Zealand's podocarp/broadleaf forest has similarities to tropical rainforests. They both have lots of different species, many hanging vines and perching plants and many layers of vegetation.
Layers of our Podocarp/Broadleaf Forests
Emergent Trees - These trees are over 30 metres tall and tower above the forest; rimu, kahikatea, totara, rata, matai and miro.
Canopy/Roof – The flowering trees of this layer grow to around 20 metres tall. They make a dense layer of foliage that filters rain and sunlight for the plants below. Some examples are tawa, taraire and beech
Sub-canopy - Tree ferns, nikau palms, mahoe, wineberry and fuchsia can be found in this layer. They can grow to around 10 metres.
Small Trees/Shrubs - This layer is shaded by the trees above, they are no taller than 5 metres. Many of the trees in this layer are young; they are waiting for a gap to open up so they can grow tall.
Forest Floor - It's wet and dark down here. There are mostly mosses and ferns in this layer.
Our native forests are very important. They act as -
- a carbon-sucker
- a home for our native birds and insects
- a food source for our native creatures
- a water filter
- a flood-stopper
To find out more about the importance of our forests, see here.
Threats to our Forests
• Pest Animals - People introduced animals to New Zealand that have become pests in the forest, such as possums, goats, pigs, rats and deer. These animals trample the forest, eat small trees, munch on seeds and eat the leaves of growing trees.
• Weeds -People brought many plants to New Zealand that escaped into the forests and became weeds. These plant pests either smother trees, like Old Man's Beard, or they carpet the ground, stopping new native plants from growing, like Wandering Willie.
What Can You Do?
• When you visit a native forest be sure to keep all of your rubbish with you
• If you are in a protected area, like a national park, remember to take only memories and leave only footprints.
• Do not wander from the paths in the forest, because you may crush new plants growing under the bigger trees
• Get your hands dirty! Help out with planting trees in a forest near you.