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Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

After narrowly avoiding total loss in the February 2019 Pigeon Valley fire, Eves Valley Scenic Reserve, a precious lowland beech-podocarp forest remnant, is growing again.

Date:  03 November 2020

The edges and hillslopes of the 28-hectare reserve near Nelson were burnt by the fire that spread over 2400 hectares. Nearly two years later, valley floor plantings of native species form a protective buffer for the main reserve area popular for its meandering 20-minute bush walk, birdsong and many picnic areas.

Department of Conservation ranger Dan Chisnall says while it is small in area, tucked away in a corner of the Waimea Plains, the reserve is a nationally important fragment of our natural heritage.

“Eves Valley Scenic Reserve represents the last vestiges of the formerly extensive Waimea forests. The reserve is highly regarded by botanists for its assemblage of lowland plants. Had it been lost it would have taken hundreds of years to regrow to its current state.”

DOC staff held their breath as the fire threatened the reserve. It was initially feared that it had been entirely lost. Once it emerged that only the edges of the valley floor forest were damaged, DOC developed a plan to establish a buffer area with more than 6000 low flammability native plants. Tasman Pine Forests Ltd offered an area of their land adjacent to the reserve to support the initiative. Once mature, the plantings will help the long-term security of the reserve in the event of a future fire.

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) trainee rangers had adopted the reserve before the fire and have done much of the restoration planting with DOC staff. As part of their programme, the trainee rangers collected seed to grow some of the seedlings for the project.

The Paper Rain Project, a Picton-based clothing company, sold t-shirts to raise just over $4000 to purchase more plants for the project.

“We’re so stoked to have been able to support such an important cause” says Indigo Rowe from the Paper Rain Project. “A huge thanks to the passionate Paper Rain customers who hopped on board to help see so many native trees replanted in the wake of the fire.”

Forest & Bird volunteers donated $1000 and led a planting day. They were joined by members of the Nelson Hard Park and Sound Off Car Club, who also contributed $300 for plants to offset carbon from air flights.

Dan Chisnall says, given the importance of the Eves Valley reserve, DOC is very grateful to the groups, businesses and volunteers who have helped build the buffer planting to reduce the risk from future fires.


Background information

NMIT trainee ranger programme

The NMIT trainee ranger programme adopted the Eves Valley Scenic Reserve in 2016 as a site to educate students for a range of conservation learning outcomes including:

  • weed and pest control
  • plant identification
  • native seed collection
  • propagation.

Since then, more than 100 students have contributed to the restoration of the reserve, which has seen more intensive weed control and predator control for stoats, rats, and possums.

Ecological succession

Most of the regrowth on the hill slopes since the fire has been gorse, bracken, Himalayan honeysuckle, Old Man’s Beard and blackberry. This has set ecological succession back by 40 years.

DOC will mainly rely on natural succession to manage the weeds – native species will eventually spread out from the more intact gullies to suppress and replace the weed species.

MIL OSI