Agathis australis (Kauri) is a coniferous tree native to the subtropical northern section of the North Island of New Zealand and is the biggest species of tree in the country, with trunk diameters that rival Sequoias. They attain heights of 40-50 meters and have smooth bark and small oval leaves. Other common names to distinguish A. australis from other members of the genus are Southern Kauri and New Zealand Kauri.
Although kauri forests are among the most ancient in the world, their territory decreased considerably due to heavy logging in the past. Kauri today are much less common than in pre-European times. The small remaining pockets of kauri forest in New Zealand are a remnant of the estimated 1.2 million hectares covered before human arrival. The forests have survived in areas that weren’t burnt off by Māori settlers and were too inaccessible to European loggers. The largest area of mature Kauri forest is Waipoua Forest in Northland. Mature and regenerating Kauri can also be found in other National and Regional Parks such as Puketi and Omahuta Forests in Northland, the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland, and Coromandel Forest Park on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The most famous specimens are Tane Mahuta and Te Matua Ngahere in Waipoua Forest in Northland, a 2,500 hectare forest which contains three quarters of New Zealand’s remaining kauri. Named after the Māori forest god and ‘Father of the Forest’ respectively, these two trees have become tourist attractions due to their size.
A considerable number of kauri have been found buried in what are today salt marshes, resulting from ancient natural changes such as volcanic eruptions, sea level changes and floods. Such trees have been radiocarbon dated to originating as far back as 50,000 years ago or older.
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