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Living Laboratory project

Aotearoa New Zealand is facing the globally common problems of rapidly disappearing biodiversity and the need to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.


The solution of planting more trees has come strongly out of central government, through initiatives like One Billion Trees. But how do we know we are spending our money wisely? Are we putting the right trees in the right places to reforest our land most effectively?

The Living Laboratory project, funded by AUT, is a real-world experiment that will address key scientific, political and social knowledge gaps when it comes to bringing native forest back onto kiwi farms.


We want to ensure optimal outcomes for:

(1) Farm kaitiakitanga (environmental guardianship) such as productivity, economic viability, and intergenerational sustainability 

(2) Agroecosystem function, such as tree growth and carbon sequestration, erosion control, and native biodiversity conservation.  


To do this, we will set up three, large-scale, long-term experiments. Five hectare sites will be home to experimental plots, where we will grow native canopy tree species under a variety of conditions. By altering different variables like site preparation methods, nursery treatments and planting density, we can determine how to best establish old-growth native forest for biodiversity, ecological, cultural and carbon sequestration values.

We will develop the experiments within a kaupapa Māori framework whereby we seek to co-design the trials and to maximise the mauri (life force) of the experimental systems and the landscapes and communities within which they are embedded.  


These sites will become treasured places for their local communities, as well as being a ‘living legacy’ for AUT that will support undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research activity decades into the future.

Site One

Pourewa Creek with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei