Pete McKenzie shares more from the place where ancient knowhow is respected:
As a weed choked a New Zealand lake, a tribe found a surprising solution in a centuries-old tool, adding to a pitched debate over how Indigenous knowledge can complement conventional science.
LAKE ROTOMA, New Zealand — A riot of native plant life once covered the shallows of Lake Rotomā, one of the many bodies of water that speckle New Zealand’s upper North Island. At night, mottled green crayfish scuttled from the deep to graze beneath the fronds in such plentiful numbers that the local Māori tribe could gather a meal in a few minutes of wading.
These days, the lake bed is carpeted by an alien canopy. Sharply spiraled weeds, introduced by goldfish owners dumping unwanted tanks, form an impenetrable wall around the lake’s edge. Unable to push through it on their daily commute, the crayfish largely vanished.
Now, the local tribe, Te Arawa, and conservation agencies are racing to suppress the weed’s explosive growth as it chokes once-pristine aquatic ecosystems. At Lake Rotomā, the tribe found a surprising solution in a centuries-old tool — and added to a pitched debate about how ancestral Māori knowledge can complement conventional science.
Te Arawa, which has long used woven flax mats, known as uwhi, to cross water and gather food in shallow swamps, is employing modern diving technology to staple uwhi underwater where aquatic herbicide hasn’t worked or shouldn’t be sprayed. It has helped stop the weed’s growth and create new migration routes for the crayfish…
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