Maimai Experimental Watershed

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Location of the experimental catchments of MaiMai, New Zealand
Areal view into the MaiMai catchments by Lindsay Rowe



The Maimai study is made up of eight small experimental catchments in Tawhai Forest (42°05’ S, 171°48’E), 5 km north-west of Reefton, to the east of the Paparoa Range in Westland, South Island, New Zealand. The catchments are situated on south-facing slopes draining into Powerline Creek (informal name), which drains into the Mawheraiti River. All the catchments lie parallel to each other and have similar topographic characteristics. Slopes are steep (about 357, generally rectilinear to slightly concave, less than 300 m long, with local relief of 75-100m.

Catchment size

Catchment areas range from 1.63 to 8.26 ha.


mainly superhumid, microthermal, with adequate rainfall in all seasons
high annual rainfall (2450 mm mean annual rainfall) --> soils remain within 10% of saturation through most of the hydrologic year
mean annual temperature is 1.1 °C, with recorded extremes of -8.5 and 33.7 °C
mean monthly relative humidity at 9am averages 87% and ranges between 76% for December and 95% for June and July


The Maimai catchments are underlain by Old Man Gravels, conglomerates of Pliocene-Lower Pleistocene age. These are moderately weathered, tightly compacted and poorly permeable and comprise clasts of sandstone, granite and schist in a clay-sand matrix. Soils are stony silt loam podzolized yellow brown earths overlain with a 15 cm thick high porosity organic humus layer Hydraulic conductivity of the mineral soils range from 5 to 300 mm/h, the mean porosity is 45%, and soil profiles average 60 cm. The soil has a high density of preferential flow paths, including vertical cracks, live and dead root channels, and macropores in the soil profile and along the soil bedrock interface.

Vegetation/Land use

Typical vegetation in the MaiMai catchment
View on stream and riparian zone in the main catchment

The natural vegetation in the study area is evergreen mixed beech-podocarp-hardwood forest classified. The dominant canopy species are hard beech (Nothofagus truncata) in association with the podocarps miro (Prumnopitysferruginea) and rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum). In gully heads red beech (N. Jusca) and silver beech (N. menziesii) replace the hard beech. The subcanopy is predominantly kamahi (Weinmunnia ruce-mosa). Pepperwood (Pseudowintera colorata) and Coprosma spp. are major components of the shrub tier. Ground cover is dominated by mosses and ferns (Blechnum discolor and Hymenopliyllum spp.).

Context of investigation

Hillslope throughfall trench

Maimai was established as a hydrological experimental field site in late 1974, to examine the effects of forest management on water and sediment flux. The site has been continuously monitored since.


Soil Moisture

Links to project webpages

other Links


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