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Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.

Me ora te Ngāhere: visioning forest health through an Indigenous biocultural lens

Kiri R. Reihana A * , Phil O’B. Lyver B , Andrew Gormley B , Megan Younger C , Nicola Harcourt A , Morgan Cox D , Mahuru Wilcox A and John Innes A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.

B Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, PO Box 69040, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand.

C Ngā Waihua o Paerangi Trust, 1 Mountain Road, Ohakune, New Zealand.

D Kiwi for Kiwi Trust, B:hive – Smales Farm, 74 Taharoto Road, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand.

* Correspondence to:

Handling Editor: Mike Calver

Pacific Conservation Biology 30, PC22028
Submitted: 20 July 2022  Accepted: 12 May 2023  Published: 3 July 2023

© 2024 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND)


Explanatory note

The following text is described in the Ngāti Rangi mita (dialect), although concepts may be similar e.g. Mouri = Mauri, the spelling reflects the tribal vernacular.


National biodiversity monitoring in Aotearoa, New Zealand is primarily conducted within Eurocentric conservation frameworks. At present, Māori (Indigenous Peoples of Aotearoa) have limited interaction and role within these programs.


We explored a biocultural monitoring tool based on mātauranga (Māori knowledge) to inform Ngāti Rangi (a central North Island Māori tribe) about the health of spatially separate, but ecologically similar, forests within the Ngāti Rangi tribal estate.


We did a series of noho taiao (community workshops) and one on one interviews to collect the values that expressed a Ngāti Rangi world view, to measure the health of the ngahere (forest). Gradients and indicators were developed to apply a measure of ngahere health. The metrics were trialled in three forests to create a group understanding. The interviews provided an observation of ngahere health and assessed intergenerational differences in how forest health is perceived.

Key results

Rongoā, Manu, Ngahere, Wai, and Tangata were themes prioritised by Ngāti Rangi. Biocultural indicators revealed moderate health across the three forest sites, whilst the more ecological-based indicators indicated moderate to strong levels of health. Age-related differences in how forest condition indicated evidence of an inter-generational shift. However, it was agreed that the forest health had declined over the past 30–40 years.


A full sensory evaluation of forest health facilitates a deep relational connection to place, which coupled with philosophies such as reciprocity and whakapapa, are vital features of a biocultural conservation approach.


Cultural–ecological constructs are key in relationships between Indigenous Peoples and their environments. Biocultural approaches can contribute to reversing the current biodiversity crisis, through partnering in placed-based solutions.

Keywords: biocultural, biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, biology, conservation, conservation biology, conservation tools, culture, ecological restoration, ecology, forest, health, invasive species, New Zealand.


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