Part of the “Land Use and Carbon Analysis System” (LUCAS)

Interpine is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) to implement a planted forest inventory system for carbon monitoring. The first planted forest measurement season was completed in 2007, and this work is continuing in 2008 on sites located throughout NZ .

So what is LUCAS ?
The New Zealand Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (known as the LUCAS project) is a programme of work to measure and monitor the national level carbon stocks of New Zealand’s forests and soils. Carbon stock information is required for New Zealand’s reporting requirements under the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. LUCAS is an important part of the Government’s climate change policy package and will help inform our future international climate change negotiations. The data collected as a result of LUCAS will also support New Zealand’s rural land-use sustainability and the New Zealand Emissions Trading System (ETS). The Ministry for the Environment (MFE) is leading the LUCAS project with MAF assigned responsibility for the measurement of planted forests.

For more information on LUCAS see

Why is LUCAS interested in trees on my land ? 091510_2138_nationallev1
The NZ Planted Forest Carbon Monitoring System uses a national grid-based network of permanent plots to provide an unbiased estimate of carbon stored in planted forests. Sample points are located on a 4km grid across the country. A sample point (also referred to as a site) is deemed to be part of the permanent plot network if any part of any plot within a 4 plot cluster falls within an area of planted forest (shown in A – 4km grid in yellow with survey sites falling in planted forest selected in red). Around 400 of these sites have been selected across the country for measurement. The LUCAS project has already completed a similar inventory of natural forests using an 8km grid.

Who is involved with this LUCAS Project?
Interpine has been contracted by MAF to complete the field survey of the 400 sites around the country. On site it is our staff who you will be dealing with. Charles from our team will contact you to let you know when to expect our field team on site. Prior to this you will have been contacted by Forme Consulting Group who is contracted by MAF to conduct a phone / letter survey of land owners associated with the selected sites. After we surveyed your site you may also be contacted by Scion Research. They will be conducting an audit of our field work on a small percentage of the sites.

What happens on a LUCAS survey site ?091510_2138_nationallev2
Data is collected from a cluster of four circular plots centred on selected 4km grid points. These are located 35m apart in the formation shown (shown in B).

We collect data from 3 potential carbon pools on site, including above-ground live biomass (trees and shrubs), dead wood and leaf litter. This includes capturing measurements of tree size, species, shrub cover, and dead wood onsite (shown in E). We will be removing from the site 4 samples, each 30x30cm, of leaf litter found on the ground (shown in F) and about 250g (or a cupful) of top soil.

The site will be marked by 3 trees painted with white paint and a number (witness trees) to help triangulate the location of the site centre in the future (shown in D right). We would also normally mark the centre of each plot with a 30cm metal pipe in the ground to allow crews in the future to locate the plot centres using a metal detector (shown in C). If you have any concerns about this let our field crews know.

What information can landowners provide to assist in the LUCAS project ?
There are a number of ways you can assist with the project. We would greatly appreciate information like:

  • Confirmation of land owner contact details, and any other parties which should be contacted now and in the future about access to the site (farm or forest managers). Also note your preferred method of contact: phone, fax, email, or letter.
  • The easiest way to get access to the 4km grid point location (we can provide maps on request).
  • Do we need any gate keys / permits or special equipment (RT radio’s, Quad bikes) to access the site ?
  • Let us know of any concerns you have with access e.g. lambing, inaccessible after heavy rain
  • When were the trees planted, and was the land under them forest or pasture prior to Jan 1990 ?
  • Have you conducted any silviculture on the trees (pruning, thinning, fertilising, spraying) ?

    (If you don’t know the age or silviculture (for example due to change of ownership), our expert field teams maybe able to help you understand this from the data they collect)

Will we be back ? If so how often ?
Yes most likely, a MAF or MFE contracted company will be back to remeasure these sites in the future. As noted earlier these sites are established as a permanent network around the country. It is intended a sample of the sites will be remeasured every 4-5 years, although this has yet to be confirmed.

What if you plan to cut the trees down, or thin or prune trees at the sample site ?
You are free to do as you please with the site. LUCAS aims to gather growth and carbon stock information from the site over time and you should treat the site how you would the rest of your forest or planted area. It is normal forestry practice to do all of the above so we expect this will occur.

Where will the information be used ? Who has access to it ?
On your request this information will not be shared outside of the LUCAS project and used only for its primary objective of monitoring carbon stock change in New Zealand’s planted forests therefore advancing New Zealand’s reporting commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Kyoto Protocol. If however you are ok with the data being shared with other projects you can let us know and we can tag your dataset if indeed other parties would like to use it (for example producing maps of invasive weed distributions across the country).

Can you get a copy of data collected onsite? 091510_2138_nationallev3
Yes of course, you are welcome to the dataset collected by our teams. This will include all maps, photos, lab results and data collected onsite (shown in G). Please let our teams know you would like the dataset and we can send this to you at the end of the measurement season.

Does this inventory work out the carbon credits on my land ?
In short no. We have had many landowners interested in understanding the potential of “carbon credits” and trading schemes related to the introduction of a set of draft legislation called ETS (emissions trading scheme). The LUCAS project is separate from ETS and has been running for several years (Natural forest surveys started in 2002). The data collected on your land would not be a sufficient sample on its own.

So what is this ETS legislation about then ?
“The Government has introduced legislation into Parliament which, if passed, will establish an economy-wide Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) covering all greenhouse gases in New Zealand. The draft legislation and public submission on it will be considered by the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. The ETS is designed to allow New Zealand to meet its international climate change commitments (for example, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol) at least cost in the long term. It will require specific people and companies to surrender emission units (NZUs) or other Kyoto Protocol emission units to match the level of emissions for which they are responsible. The NZUs will be able to be bought and sold by the private sector. The draft legislation proposes that various sectors of the economy be brought into the ETS at different times, with forestry being the first. It is important to note that the select committee may make changes to what is currently proposed, and that decisions on some aspects of the scheme have not yet been made”
(Source : 21-4-2008)

ETS legislation is still going through select committee so information on implications for individual land owners are still a bit light.

Where can I get more information ?

The LUCAS Project :

UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol:

MAF’s Climate Change Initiatives :

MAF’s Emission Trading Sceme for Forestry (ETS) :

MAF’s ETS Frequently Asked Questions :

In Summary
I hope you have found this information useful and please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions.

David Herries
General Manager, Interpine Forestry Ltd,



This information release has been put together by Interpine Forestry Ltd to assist landowners or interested parties help understand why we are coming onto their land to measure their trees. This is not intended as an offical information release from MAF, or MFE and if landowners would like more information please review the websites listed above, and related contact details.