An Ecoforestry Review of the Environmental Effects of Exotic Monoculture Tree Plantations in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Greenpeace Aotearoa / New Zealand with support from Canterbury Branch Maruia Society

By Grant Rosoman (M. Appl. Sci.)

August 1994

Drawing on a range of up-to-date scientific and academic research on the environmental effects of exotic monoculture tree plantations this review evaluates the ecological sustainability of current New Zealand plantation industry practices.

The review acknowledges that trees and forests are essential to nature and human society, and takes a holistic view of the plantation industry to assess claims that exotic monoculture tree plantations in New Zealand are sustainable.

Greenpeace rejects the industry’s claim that current practices are sustainable. They are not. A range of significant impacts on soil and water quality, yield, natural biodiversity and ecosystem health cannot be ignored.

The review goes on to set out Greenpeace’s long-term vision of an ecologically sustainable forestry industry based on a landscape approach, diversity of tree systems, zero use and discharge of toxic chemicals, longer crop lengths and restoration of biodiversity.

The review identifies ways of achieving long-term ecological and economic sustainability. Outlining a strategy for jobs and the environment the review looks at the restoration of natural site conditions and productivity, and ways to mimic nature with mixed species plantation systems that work within the limits of natural soil and site conditions. It goes 

on to point out that future markets lie in the demand for ecologically sustainable wood products.

Greenpeace also urges the plantation industry to make its practices ecologically sustainable in order to maintain soil and water quality, and natural landscape biodiversity. The full ecological costs of industrial tree plantations have not yet been accounted for in New Zealand. This review is a first step towards such an account. However, it does not attempt to be a complete comparison of tree plantations with other land uses.