Park Status: Open
Awahuri Forest Kitchener Park is a mosaic of lowland and wetland forest ecosystem types. Under the Singers & Rogers classification system for New Zealand ecosystems, they are referred to as WF2: tōtara, mataī, ribbonwood forest and WF8: kahikatea, pukatea forest.
WF2 consists of podocarp forest of abundant tōtara and mataī, with occasional kahikatea, ribbonwood and kōwhai, and a wide range of divaricating shrubs. Locally it includes occasional tawa, tītoki and maire species (both black maire and white maire were present at this site until at least the late 1960’s and have been reintroduced as part of the recent restoration work).
Only 1% of this ecosystem type remains in the Manawatū-Whanganui Region and most remaining examples are in poor condition. It historically occurred on well-drained and moderately fertile alluvium on river terraces prone to flooding. At this site, it is present next to the current stream channel and parts of the former stream channels within the forest.
WF8: kahikatea, pukatea forest would have occupied most of the low-lying floodplains of the major rivers from the Whanganui to the Manawatū, and seasonally flooded dune plains in the Foxton Ecological District. This ecosystem is essentially swamp forest or seasonally waterlogged floodplain forest. It occurs on poor and imperfectly draining organic, gley and recent soils with (seasonally) high water tables.
This forest type has been greatly reduced in extent with land development for agriculture and urban development and most examples are now highly fragmented or small. Many examples have additionally suffered from lowered water tables because of land drainage, allowing invasion or replacement by species more suited to drier habitats. Only 1% of the former kahikatea, pukatea forest cover remains in the Manawatū-Whanganui Region.
Fragments that have been subjected to historic livestock grazing – as is the case here – typically have few surviving pukatea as their root systems are particularly sensitive to trampling damage. Only a handful of mature pukatea remain so this species is an important part of the restoration planting already underway. Tawa, tītoki, tōtara, mataī, pōkākā, māhoe, kōwhai, ribbonwood and narrow-leaved lacebark occur on areas of drier, slightly raised ground with imperfectly drained soils.
The low-lying, wettest areas of Awahuri Forest Kitchener Park are dominated by kahikatea trees with many of these towering above the canopy. Kahikatea have bird dispersed fruits and this forest would have been a seasonally significant food resource for many species (e.g., tūī & kereru). Mature kahikatea fruit heavily every two to three years, producing up to 800 kg of fruit per tree.