Kauri (Agathis australis (D.Don) Lindl.) is endemic to New Zealand and is the southernmost species of the tropical genus Agathis.
The growth history of the second southern-most known stand of New Zealand kauri is documented. This stand is located at Wairongoa Springs near Dunedin, approximately 8° of latitude south of the modern natural range of the species. This stand was established in the 1950s and now approximates a natural ‘ricker’ stand of juvenile kauri. Sample plot measurements of height and diameter growth taken in 2009 were compared to published 1986 data from the same stand, and were used for modelling self-thinning dynamics. An investigation was also undertaken using ring-widths from cores obtained by increment boring to generate a 52-year dendrochronological record that shows a strong common pattern of long-term and inter-annual changes in growth. Carbon isotope analysis of annual rings from 1983–2009 revealed corresponding multi-decadal chemical trends. Segmented linear regression was used to compare the ring-width record with existing kauri growth and self-thinning models.
Growth of kauri at Wairongoa Springs was fast, was comparable to other plantations of kauri without silvicultural tending, and was generally faster than that of natural stands. The growth of the stand can be considered as occurring in two apparent phases. The first was a 26-year period of relatively constant rapid growth with ring-widths averaging 3.5 mm while the second phase showed a steady decline in annual growth thought to be indicative of self-thinning due to increasing competition. This ring-width decline was matched by a gradual decline in the ratio of carbon isotope 13C to 12C.
Ring-width measurements and carbon isotope determinations compared with forestry-based modelling of self-thinning in kauri suggest that this stand is undergoing self-thinning much sooner than other kauri stands. This result highlights other possible influences beyond simple biomass accumulation triggering the onset of self-thinning. The growth rate of the plantation is comparable to others from the North Island, demonstrating that kauri can be grown, albeit in sheltered sites, throughout the length of New Zealand.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.