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New drone footage reveals massive flowering of at-risk northern rātā

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Forest & Bird today releases drone footage of once-in-a-decade rich red heavy flowering of northern rātā.

“Ancient rātā giants used to tower alongside rimu over much of Aotearoa. Together they dominated the rainforest skyline,” says Dean Baigent-Mercer, Northland Conservation Advocate for Forest & Bird. “The ancient northern rātā standing today began growing before possums were introduced. Even without the new threat of myrtle rust, northern rātā are now reliant on us for their survival because they are such a favourite food of possums.”

The drone footage shows a native rainforest canopy including flowering northern rātā in Northland following seven years of intensive and consistent pest control. Scientific research has shown possum-wrecked native rainforest canopies take 20 years to recover by keeping possum numbers as close to zero as possible.

“Native rainforest canopies should be lush greens, but the greyness you see in the drone footage is from decades of possum attack. The flowering northern rātā has basically dodged a bullet thanks to pest control and is starting to recover. But in areas nearby without pest control the forest is slowly collapsing – just as any native forest is across the country without pest control,” says Mr Baigent-Mercer.

Rātā and pōhutukawa species now face an even more uncertain future as myrtle rust is being found in more widespread areas.

“It’s important to make the most of this year’s very heavy flowering of northern rātā because the trees will soon be producing an abundance of seed. Forest & Bird has made a short video showing how to collect seed and grow northern rātā. If the seed doesn't find a place to germinate within weeks, the seed is dead.”

“Pest control targeting all the introduced animals builds the natural resilience of the forest for the challenges ahead,” said Mr Baigent-Mercer.

Forest & Bird encourages members of the public who find myrtle rust not to touch it and to report it to MPI: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/responding/alerts/myrtle-rust

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