THE SCIENCE STORY OF KAURI DIEBACK
The Kauri Dieback Programme has a team of people representing tangata whenua, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries and local government who work in environmental science, biosecurity, and mātauranga Māori (traditional Maori knowledge).
Research is vital to the programme as it can result in the development of tools that will help us save and protect this Taonga for future generations.
We’re also supported by an Independent Strategic Science Advisory Group, who set the high-level strategic approach. As well as a Technical Advisory Group who provide technical advice on the science.
Since December 2014, the programme has had an annual budget of approximately $836,500 to build knowledge and tools to help combat kauri dieback disease. External to the programme funding, investment into Kauri dieback research also comes from other sources, such as universities and Crown Research Institutes, with the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) contributing a large component of the funding, approximately $1.9 million per annum.
Although a lot of research has been done, there are still gaps in our knowledge that we’re continuing to understand. This has focused on the following six areas:
1. UNDERSTANDING THE DISEASE
We’re increasing our understanding of the pathogen that causes Kauri dieback. The priority has been to understand more about the pathogen, its biology and its impacts.
2. DETECTION, SURVEILLANCE AND DIAGNOSIS
To help stop the spread of the disease we need to first know how it spreads, then locate where it maybe and find ways to confirm its presence. We’ve worked out the best way to find the disease and detect it in the soil using modern laboratory techniques. In addition, we’re currently exploring other ways to improve how we find the disease and detect the pathogen.
3. CONTROLLING THE SPREAD
By understanding the type of pathways or vectors (carriers) of the disease, allows us to better control its movement by targeting certain activities. Given the disease is primarily spread in soil, humans are regarded as the biggest carrier through contaminated soil on footwear and other gear. So we’ve increased our focus on behavioural change research to get people to; Scrub their footwear, spray on disinfectant and stay on track.
Other forest inhabitant’s (e.g. wild pigs, livestock), are carriers too. It’s important to understand the threat they pose as well as identifying other pathways from which disease can spread.
4. CONTROLLING THE DISEASE
Unfortunately there is no cure for kauri dieback. In addition, it is very difficult to find useful pragmatic tools that can be applied in a natural forest that not only will help control the disease but is also non-toxic to kauri and has minimal environmental and human health impacts.
We are investing in research to help find ways to fight the pathogen directly as well as to assist the tree in fighting the disease themselves or prevent the trees from becoming infected in the first place. The use of phosphite, biological control, alternative natural products, traditional maori medicines and genetic resistance are some of the research that is occurring.
Good decision-making leads to better more effective management of the disease. However we need the tools and tactics that will allow us to do this. As a team we need to prioritise where and how we spend resources to save Kauri. By identifying the areas of concern and ensuring that iconic Kauri sites are protected, we hope to keep ahead of the disease and protect these areas for future generations.
6. Matauranga Maori
The use of Mātauranga Māori or traditional Maori knowledge is increasingly becoming relevant in the fight against pest & diseases.
Mātauranga Māori is holistic, dynamic and a continually evolving knowledge system. It is defined as the knowledge, comprehension or understanding of everything tangible or intangible (such as spiritual and metaphysical values) that exists across the universe from a Maori perspective.