The Dame Charmian O'Connor Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences

Huapai Reserve

The Huapai reserve is 15 ha of kauri forest, mature kanuka scrub, areas supporting puriri, taraire, rewarewa, and podocarps. It also has distinct vegetation, predominately kahikatea, tree fern, nikau palm, and supple-jack, in the gullies.


In 1947 the liquidators of Northern Fruitlands Ltd bequeathed 12 ha to the University “as a reserve for the preservation of kauri trees” and “for research purposes”.

In 1949 the University purchased an adjoining block of land.

A Kauri forest at the Huapai Reserve

Research history

This reserve has a diverse research history with staff and students working on:

  • Hydrology
  • Nutrient accessions
  • Dynamics of litter fall decomposition and the physical damage caused to plants by falling leaves
  • Canopy gap species composition, recruitment, and growth
  • Nikau palms – their general reproduction and overall population dynamics
  • Kauri - seed bank
  • Invertebrates - ant, beetle, and scale insect communities and invertebrate decomposers
  • Possum – reproductive ecology and denning behaviour
  • Plant species present which are culturally important to Māori
  • Jatropha germination
  • Woody debris decomposition by invertebrates
A rainbow skink
Rainbow skink

Current studies

Kauri and drought

As the climate changes, droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe in many parts of the world, including the north of New Zealand’s north island where kauri trees grow. These trees are amongst the largest and longest-lived trees in the world but the threat of drought to their survival has not been explored. This Marsden project led by Cate Macinnis-Ng will investigate the physiology of kauri and other tree species of Northland forests to determine the impact of drought on the function of native trees. The University of Auckland Huapai reserve provides an ideal location to study water use of trees. Sap flow sensors are continuously recording movement of water up trees to determine daily, seasonal and annual patterns in tree water use. Field measurements will be combined with modelling approaches to explore tree physiological function under drought.

Kauri carbon project

Kauri accumulate masses of biomass in their huge trunks, branches and root systems. While it has long been known that kauri forests store vast amounts of carbon, the rates at which carbon is cycled have not yet been investigated. Cate Macinnis-Ng and Luitgard Schwendenmann are measuring the main pathways of carbon transfer from the atmosphere into living tissue and back to the atmosphere again to understand seasonal and inter-annual variability in carbon uptake and loss. This project will define the carbon budget for kauri forest at Huapai for a two year period capturing a wet and a dry summer. The main fluxes are tree growth, leaf litter fall and soil respiration. Research from Huapai will be compared to carbon fluxes of a forest infected with kauri dieback. The project is funded by a Faculty Research Development Fund grant from the Faculty of Science.

For more information about these projects visit

The Royal Society of New Zealand website

TVNZ One News

Radio New Zealand National - Our Changing World

Other studies

  • Collection of climate data
  • Kauri:
    • dendrochronology (part of a 4000 yr chronosequence)
    • carbon stocks and fluxes in trees and surrounding soil
    • threat of drought
    • transpiration rates
    • kauri die-back surveillance
  • Tree fern growth rates
  • Mammal behaviour
  • Carrion fly fauna composition

Current teaching use

  • Field trip for GEOG 261: Climate and Hydrology
  • Sample collection for BIOSCI 320: Pure and Applied Entomology
  • Sample collection for BIOSCI 323: Plant Diversity
Kauri snail
Kauri snail