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Climate Change Threatens Māori Plant Use and Knowledge

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Climate change will likely shift the distribution of culturally important plants in New Zealand, hampering harvests and putting long Māori traditions and knowledge at risk.

“Because of polluted water and soil, invasive species, and habitat destruction people are already having trouble finding the resources they need. Climate change adds another layer to this issue”, said Dr Priscilla Wehi from Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, who co-authored new forecast maps published in People and Nature (

Local and indigenous people play critical roles in preserving biodiversity and ecosystems. Plants may expand or shift their range as global temperatures continue to rise, but ancient bio­cultural connections could be lost if plants become inaccessible to the people who use them. “Rather than just looking at whether climate change will make species go extinct, we wanted to know how climate change will affect people’s access to plants”, Wehi said.

The researchers focused on two plants that are traditionally used for weaving and as medicine, and that are important to the history and identity of the indigenous Māori people.

Kuta (Eleocharis sphacelata) is a soft, golden sedge found in wetlands across New Zealand and is especially valued in the North Island, where it is...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.