Methodology Trial Report for Year Two

Gahnia Grove Methodology Trial Hours for 2019/20

The hours of site work for the year 19/20 have been recorded separately for Gahnia Grove (the Glenfield Rd forest margin worked on from 20 May 2018), Tanekaha Ridge (the forest area downhill of Gahnia Grove, worked on from June 2019) and Rimu Ridge (the Glenfield Rd forest margin North of Gahnia Grove, worked on from August 2019).

This separation of hours enables a rough comparison of the hours needed in subsequent years to control and eventually eradicate the mass weed invasion of a defined area by this Trial methodology, particularly with regard to kikuyu, honeysuckle, ginger, and tree/shrub weeds. The initially weed-dominated roadside forest margin area of Gahnia Grove serves as the measure of this assessment, having received in Year Two less than half the number of hours of sitework recorded in Year One. (The Year One totals are recorded in our End of Year One report.)

The combined area of the Trial in Year Two was approximately one hectare.

Year Two hours

Gahnia Grove sitework - 142
Rimu Ridge sitework - 94.5
Tanekaha Ridge sitework - 59
Total Trial site work - 295.75 hrs (excluding 33 hours by Trainee, solely in Rimu Ridge)
Teaching - 10
Liaison - 99.25
Community Liaison (passersby, Reserve users) - 4
Monitoring & research - 563

Total hours spent in 2019/20 on the Gahnia Grove Methodology Trial - 973

The time-totals for monitoring, research, liaison etc are not compared year on year, as the Year Two hours in these categories were for the entire area of the Gahnia Grove Umbrella Project area, including Rimu Ridge and Tanekaha Ridge.

Volunteer Training
In Spring 2019 a Reserve user became a Trainee assisting the Trial, adopting his own area for supervised sitework on Rimu Ridge, where (excluding training time) he contributed 33 hours of site work over the remainder of the year.


Gahnia Grove sitework - 142 hours

As expected, site work in the 2018 site, in Year Two of this Trial was much less than for the 1st year, less than half the 2018/19 total of 328 hours. As in Year One, much of this time was spent in ecological survey, observation, planning, and trialling and assessment of additional strategies and techniques, moisture retention, fire hazard prevention and drought mitigation, rather than direct weed control. All functions being performed during the same site visits, it is impossible to determine the exact time spent on weed control, or how it could be achieved without the simultaneous asessment and planning, but we continue to find the efficiency of weed reduction to be improved by reducing and delaying intervention based on confidence in our assessment of growth rates, the regularity of ongoing survey and the success of minimal and specific intervention as needed. Very large and damaging occurrences of woody weeds and vine, both in the forest and on the sunlit margin, have become effectively inert, requiring only a minute or two to control regrowth 2-3 times a year, and from observations to date we expect all of these to be easily uprootable (vines) or dead (shrub/tree weeds) within another year or two.

Several thousands photo observations await selection for upload to document all of these, but there are some examples among the Observations currently uploaded for each sub-site, and we hope to be able to provide a selection of side-by-side photos
in due course.


Kikuyu eradication and mown turf margin management


CHF kikuyu margin, looking South-West in May 2018, mown and herbicide-edged


In June 2020 the kikuyu margin has moved 2-3 metres back from the earlier margin. The karamu holding up the honeysuckle in the foreground of the 2018 image is absent, having died in the year after release. A mixture of native and exotic herbs have replaced all the mown kikuyu. No native tree regeneration here yet.

looking North in October 2018
(in the foreground is the same karamu, initially leafing after release from honeysuckle, but later dying )

and in May 2019

and South in October 2019

CHF kikuyu margin looking West
June 2018

November 2018
May 2019

Annexe grass margin looking North
September 2019


Our summary of kikuyu management for Year One was made here. In November 2019 we followed it up with this comment.

While we expected to battle the ongoing incursion of kikuyu into the restoration site, in fact it has required little effort. Some hours were spent experimenting with different ways to control it while presenting a tidy appearance at the mown edge, but until June 2020 it has been too short to do much with, and in fact faster growth would have been helpful.

At last it has reached, in some places, a length of about 50-100cm past the cordon. The lightly-rooted superficial runners were easily detached and folded back, preventing the further growth inwards of most stolons, as well as providing, in the shape of a wave-curl on the beach, a little shade-tent for seedlings of native and benign exotic herbs.

This was easily maintainable, and while not attractive, could be managed uniformly enough to give a pleasing sense of order .

However, this managed border received an unplanned cosmetic adjustment when we received 5m of wood chip mulch, for the improvement of moisture retention to protect wild seedlings and planned plantings of native vines and grasses. Unexpectedly, the mulch needed to be moved immediately, as motorists were arriving on the first subsequent weekend with bags and shovels thinking the mulch was free, so we moved it as quickly as possible to the cordoned site. That meant placing a lot of it directly on this wave-curl of live, pulled-back kikuyu, where it was not really wanted as the raw mulch spread in January 2019 has only recently rotted sufficiently to support soil moisture, texture and fertility.

It is expected that in a few weeks this narrow band of mulch will be easily moved, along with rotting kikuyu under it, to areas that will benefit from it, eg under mature trees, and areas so bare, compacted and/or nutrient-impoverished that they have not yet produced much wild growth of any sort.

This unplanned addition of mulch in winter will have hastened the rotting of the "wave curl", making it appear tidier, for now, but the earlier process will then resume, letting the kikuyu grow, folding it back on itself, and arranging it as uniformly as possible.


Beyond the eradication of kikuyu and its ongoing control on the outer margin, it is impossible in our Methodology to separate hours spent purely on weed-control, but we can report that very few hours were spent in Year Two on control of kikuyu or any other weed species in Gahnia Grove, ie the areas of mass weed control in Year One.

Year One had included a significant amount of time in actual weed control only from June-December 2018. Thereafter, very little weeding was needed, usually long before it became a threat to existing or potential native vegetation, as encountered during ongoing survey and monitoring of growth and new seedlings in the treeless areas, and explorations deeper into the forest.

Occasional new seedling invasions including moth plant, cherry, climbing asparagus, ginger, wattle, Castor oil plant, swan plant, ivy, and privets were uprooted.

Chinese and tree privet regrowth was occasionally suppressed on the 7 specimens suppressed initially in Winter 2018 by partial breakdown and ringbarking.

Scattered weed occurrences discovered on venturing further into the forest - eg cherry, Elaeagnus, ginger, Syzygium, Euonymus, Fatsia, Aristea, Agapanthus, Pinus juveniles - were, and continue to be, dealt with by brief interventions as encountered during exploration and monitoring. None are currently uncontrolled, ie capable of significant growth or reproduction before the next planned survey of that area.

No standing pampas remain in the forest of the Gahnia Grove Trial umbrella area, and only a few suppressed clumps remain rooted. Similar small clumps have been completely uprooted, and many used to suppress Aristea or Watsonia nearby, on the 2nd or 3rd visit. The large pampas stand within the manuka/rawirinui canopy below the Annexe was completely uprooted by the end of Year One.

The very large 6mH clump in the Annexe at the mown grass margin

lived its later life as an ongoing source of mulch to suppress previously-mown grasses
and has been allowed to grow each summer
for the slight low ground cover of its new leaves
but has been reduced to about a dozen live shoots, looped and knotted then folded onto
a decaying base now about 30cmH.


Some hours were spent, in a number of sessions, suppressing the dense and widespread invasions of Aristea ecklonii and Bulbil Watsonia throughout the forest area of Gahnia Grove, ie Forest below the Annexe, Forest below the Apron, Forest below the Arena, Forest below CHF Bank and Forest below Flame Tree Bank. While Aristea and Watsonia may be eventually suppressed by deep shade, there are many light breaks in the forest, and both weeds occupy areas of ground almost totally, with tightly wedged Watsonia bulbs and thousands of Aristea seedlings allowing no space for seedlings.

In the previously weed-dominated sun-exposed outer margin, occasional Blackberry and honeysuckle regrowth and missed roots were encountered throughout the year, but took surprisingly little time to control, especially where they had been covered with plant material, which, combined with the loss of most foliage, had weakened their roots.

The occasional weed seedlings and regrowth were addressed briefly and easily during periodic survey and monitoring, with only previously unaddressed weed invasions requiring a total of perhaps a dozen hours over the year; ie Aristea ecklonii and Bulbil Watsonia in the manuka canopy, and Elaeagnus, Kahili ginger, Euonymus japonica and Syzigium (paniculatum and/or smithii) in the wetter forest below Flame Tree Bank, adjacent to Rimu Ridge where we began initial survey, and spent most of our site hours, in Year Two of the Trial.


Following the severe summer/autumn drought of 2019, throughout the whole of Year Two weeding was constrained in all areas of the Trial site, to avoid loss of shade and ground cover, to the extent of leaving live remnants of honeysuckle and bindweed in Rimu Ridge to restore green cover to the newly exposed ground.

Most of the site work hours since August 2018 have thus been spent on reducing fire hazard, maximising moisture retention, and trialling various strategies of species selection and rate of removal of the benign herbs, aiming to facilitate all possible native seed germination while achieving the maximum possible low shade and soil moisture retention.
This constraint continues, with June providing perhaps our only opportunity to reduce weed, (depending on winter rainfall).

Having struggled to create micro-shade wherever possible through the heat of 2019's summer, the winter of 2020 is being spent in any possible preparation for possible drought this summer, by

- creating shade with kanuka brush, harakeke leaves and any other suitable material onsite

- improving soil permeability and water retention by ground cover with live benign vegetation and the addition of mulch as available appropriate to the needs of both existing plants and likely seedlings (native or benign exotic according to each area's progress), based on observations during the drought

- planting drought-resistant native ground covers and fast-growing vines, as tiny barely-rooted cuttings protected by mini-shade tents

- releasing native seedlings with minimal disturbance of low shade and ground cover, by working around, rather than culling, drought-resistant exotic herbs eg Verbena incompta and V. litoralis, plantains (Plantago lanceolata and P. major), docks (Rumex species), even the aggressively mat-forming Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens).

Following the severe summer/autumn drought of 2019, throughout the whole of Year Two weeding was constrained to avoid loss of shade and ground cover, to the extent of leaving live remnants of honeysuckle and bindweed in Rimu Ridge to restore green cover to the newly exposed ground.


Extension of wild native vegetation into the wide treeless areas of Gahnia Grove

To mitigate the loss of the canopy and ground cover of extensive dense honeysuckle, blackberry, kikuyu and other weeds, the tallest and densest growth possible of benign exotics continues to be encouraged, by every possible means. Those herbs observed to serve the purpose most successfully during drought are favoured over mat-forming, short-lived or drought-sensitive herbs and grasses. We continually monitor and release native herbs and tree seedlings "just in time", leaving them with close dense ground cover and just enough light for their needs. The light is very intense in summer, and even a 2 hour window of exposure through gaps in shade can cause stress. Since June 2020 we have exposed the larger karamu seedlings, since the warmth of the ridgetop location permits growth throgh winter, but expect to have to improvise shade in summer from harakeke leaves etc, for those not reached by that time by the slowly growing shade of the canopy margin and the scattered surviving trees released from honeysuckle in 2018.

In Year One, during the summer/autumn drought of 2019 dense tall annuals provided excellent cover, sheltering the few native seedlings that did arise, but during the drought most herbs became dry and died or were cut down as to reduce fire hazard. Nightshades, Verbena incompta and V. litoralis were the longest and strongest survivors, and by Autumn there was almost a monoculture of Verbena.

The two species of Verbena present are so arid-tolerant, with stout, divaricating roots holding immovably to the clay soil even when wet, and their seedlings are so prolific and densely ground-covering, that they had become very dominant by the end of the first summer. Assuming the drought was over, and with hopes of less aggressive exotic herbs to nurse the germination of native seedlings, we suppressed most of the Verbena plants before the Spring of Year Two, expecting a repeat of dense ox tongues, wild carrot and their accompanying soft, low and scrambling herbs.

Unfortunately the drought resumed and intensified, the more benign herbs expired early in summer, and even the Verbena were unable to to repeat their performance as the soil moisture deficit worsened. In the treeless expanses of Apron, Arena, and CHF Bank Top, shade was not as dense through the summer and autumn of 2020, and by the end of the drought there was hardly a green leaf to be seen among the standing remnants of dried herbs.

Once again, however, both species of Verbenas hung on, though in a depauperate state; as did Black nightshade and the native Dark nightshade. The dried remnants of oxtongue and wild carrot were trampled down to mulch the many native herb plants by now developing from cast and bird or wind-dispersed seed (Dark nightshade, Eslers groundsel, shrubby toatoa, nahui) and used especially to nurture the few surviving native tree seedlings, now a few centimetres high (mostly karamu and ti kouka).

Native tree seedlings

By June 2020 rain had moistened the surface of the ground once again, and exploration among both tall and low benign exotic herbs revealed the surprising survival of about 200 native tree seedlings, mostly karamu and ti kouka, many of them last seen as newly arisen seedlings in 2018 after the initial widespread weeding. Most had been barely visible, some completely hidden, under the herbs. Karamu and ti kouka 10-30cm H grew under nightshades and toatoa in or near the dripline of karamu, mapou, manuka and rawirinui. Two dozen karamu emerged to 10cm H from a tight close ground cover of plantains, buttercup, daisies and grass regrowth (and are each being given a centimetre more space as they need it).

Many of these had earlier been seen drought-stressed and were not expected to survive.

Under the first manuka to be released from honeysuckle, about a dozen ti kouka nursed by plantain, wild carrot and ox tongue are now from 20-80cm high.

Thousands of smaller seedlings have arisen in the dry leaf litter under small trees at the top of the Annexe, in space previously dominated by a 5mH pampas. A similar germination in 2019 succumbed to drought, and this year's crop have yet to demonstrate their ability to survive the coming summer. Weeds are not a problem here, the only competitors being drought-starved catsears and herb robert, but handfuls of decayed pampas are being scattered for moisture retention wherever there is space between the tree seedlings.

Most of the surviving seedlings occurred under surviving Coprosma or manuka released from honeysuckle. Tightly grouped, their numbers will drop as they continue to compete.

The introduction of native herbs - Nahui (Alternanthera nahui), Shrubby toatoa (Haloragis erecta), and Esler's groundsel (Senectio eslerii) - along with the spontaneous occurrence of the native Dark nightshade (Solanum opacum), have resulted in a few dozen native plants of 1-1.5mH effectively hedging small areas, albeit not densely enough to protect many seedlings through the last two drought summers.

These mature native herbs have now resulted in hundreds of their own seedlings, which we favour over their exotic counterparts as we continue selective weeding in hopes of an assisted wild transition from weed wasteland to native forest margin.

Whether, or how soon, this my be achieved is dependent on the weather and climate change that has, since January 2019, so severely impacted this area, and particularly this hot, dry treeless area of roadside ridge-top.

The outcome for the most seriously-affected trees released from honeysuckle in 2018

Several of the five karamu, and a juvenile akeake, 10-1 years old but, due to the dense weed infestation, standing in isolation almost completely covered by honeysuckle, were found on release to be almost leafless, with 30-90% of major branches dead.

Two of these karamu and the akeake recovered briefly, flowered and fruited, then died during the 2019 or 2020 summer/autumn droughts.

Despite the extreme stress suffered by all the vegetation on the ridge, particularly evident since March 2020, the other three karamu released from honeysuckle in 2018 have grown 2m taller densely leafy over the two years since release, and now provide pockets of low shade, as well as fruit and seeds.

Three juvenile putaputaweta in the kanuka margin partially exposed by the June 2018 removal of honeysuckle were outside their expected comfort zone this far up the dry ridge. The largest, juvenile was almost completely canopied by undisturbed rawirinui, manuka and mapou, but with no replacement ground cover having emerged on adjacent uncanopied ground bared by kikuyu and honeysuckle removal. It died soon after the 2019 winter rains came at last.

The smaller two, more exposed but on the lower part of the bank, did well the first year.

They were behind a dead tree, which during the first year dropped its branches and then the top half of its trunk.

The lower 2m of the broken trunk remained upright and was used to support a shade tent formed from its dropped branches interwoven with its brush and cut harakeke leaves.
This reduced signs of drought stress in the putaputaweta from early summer in 19/2020, but, as with the first specimen, both these smaller putputaweta began to lose all their leaves shortly after the eventual onset of winter rain.

Three severely diseased and deformed karamu near the top of the bank, rooted where Tradescantia was gradually reduced by hand in what was planned as a staged eradication of Tradescantia from the site, initally leafed out but lost many leaves in the 2020 drought. Two are now leafing out gain, but the third, the largest, further down the bank and less involved in honysuckle and the oldest but the most damaged, (possibly near the end of its natural life) may not recover.

Three tall ti kouka in the canopy margin have yellowed leaves and are stunted, as they were before intervention, possibly due to chronic soil moisture deficit.

In contrast, an unbranched 4mH ti kouka, leaning sharply on release from complete cover by honeysuckle to its neck, now has four erect basal shoots, each shoot 1-2mH, on the lower part of the leaning trunk, supported by sturdy new aerial roots. (This tree is rooted beside a shallow runoff channel).


Wildlife in Gahnia Grove

During the assisted wild transition from weed wasteland to native forest margin many invertebrates take advantage of an expanse of low herbiage and floral abundance in summer, including the Bombus terrestris small bumblebee,


honeybee
and Fungus eating ladybird, which thrive on the fungal bloom that overtakes the oxtongue after flowering

The only lizard we have seen, unfortunately, is the new-to-us Plague lizard.
Twenty years ago in this Reserve network and neighbourhood we encountered only copper skinks, notably absent during this Trial.

Tui, thrush and blackbirds frequently descend to forage in recently weeded areas.
A particularly frequent and prompt attendee last summer was this flightless female with deformed wing and beak, whom we believe to have been inhabiting the undergrowth at ground level. She was seen once preening while standing vulnerable on the ground - not a behaviour I have seen in flying birds.
Visits ended when there was no moisture to be found on site night or day. Water was probably not within walking distance.


Planting

Planned further planting of native vines on CHF Bank has been deferred due to flooding and erosion occurring following filling and compacting of the roadside apparently resulting in impermeable surface directing road runoff directly onto this bank, washing out some small plants and exposing the roots of many plants, including large trees. As soon as this is remediated through the restoration, and maybe increase, of widely disseminated vegetative filtration and absorption, planting of native vines on CHF Bank will be resumed.

The planned planting for Gahnia Grove is to provide the fastest possible soil and moisture retention and shade by supplementing the wild revegation of herbs (which become dry in summer drought) and native seedlings (which require at least low shade and shelter).

The 2020 planting consists of

- two fast-growing native vine species believed appropriate to the area, to shade and shelter the canopy margin and new generation of plants:

rhizomes of Rauparaha "Pink bindweed" (Calystegia sepium subsp roseata)
collected from the extensive occurrence covering almost all of the raingarden wetland planting on Domain Rd

and recently-rooted cuttings of "Coastal Morning Glory" (Ipomoea cairica) taken from a single plant

This plant was cultivated during 2019 from a small cutting collected from a single wild specimen observed in 2018 in the Domain Rd canopy margin before it was overtaken by Arundo donax and other weeds. (Observations here)

These plantings are experimental and may limit or overcome other native seedlings and juveniles. However, the need for shade, shelter and reduced temperature is urgent and extreme. Unless there is a reversal of current climate changes, the benefits of having in 2018 released Gahnia Grove from honeysuckle, blackberry, ginger, Arum, Calystegia silvatica, Agapanthus, privet etc may have been outweighed by the loss of their shade, shelter and ground-cooling greenery, other than having halted the rampant spread of honeysuckle through the forest.

- isolated small specimens of native grass Microlaena stipoides throughout the exposed reas of the site, hoping they will multiply and provide ground cover

- a few wrenched or potted wild local seedlings 6-10cm H: karamu, kawakawa, mahoe, Carex dissita/lambertiana/flagellifera

- small uprooted pieces of native ground-covers collected from home nearby, where they have occurred wild and over the years formed dense mats, filling bare patches of lawn and cracks in paving, and can be walked on. These are Basket grass (Oplismenus hirtellus subsp imbecilis), Nahui (Alternanthera nahui), Carex inversa and Hairy pennywort (Hydrocotyle moschata), all of which have arisen wild in our nearby home garden, and have also been observed locally among wild native regeneration.

Lobelia anceps (Shore lobelia) also occurs in the home lawn and borders, and self-seeds persistently under kanuka, among Carex and in potted plants, but has not yet been successfully transplanted to Gahnia Grove. Like Microlaena stipoides, Lobelia anceps is present wild at several locations in Gahnia Grove's manuka canopy, and may increase with rainfall if it remains undisturbed.


Rimu Ridge (sitework - 94.5 hours)

Rimu Ridge provides additional data on control of honeysuckle, ginger, kikuyu and palmgrass by the methods of gradual reduction and self-suppression we had found effective in Gahnia Grove,.

The further exploration of Gahnia Grove's Northern boundary was driven by the need to address the oncoming honeysuckle from the forest/roadside margin to the North. In August 2019 this area was adopted into the Methodology Trial as an extension to Gahnia Grove, naming it Rimu Ridge because of magnificent rimu just above the forest path below, at the foot of a steep bank primarily occupied by a radiata pine and a wide variety of invasive weeds, with planted pohutukawa at the top.

From December 2019 weeding was suspended throughout the Trial, not only in the treeless expanses of Gahnia Grove but even within the canopy, including Rimu Ridge where trees had been released from honeysuckle, but the ground still held a network of rooted runners.

In severe soil moisture deficit prohibiting both ground disturbance and any loss of shade, the focus returned to moisture retention and the rearranging of cut or dead vegetation for maximum possible shade, this need intensifying with the ongoing drought, especially in recently-released areas, where replacement ground cover by introduced herbs and grasses was very slow to develop due to drought, and cut weed rapidly dried, requiring removal from the exposed margins alongside the recreational roadside grass into the shade of canopy behind, for fire safety.

All that could be done until June 2020 was to create shade where possible for recently-released mahoe suffering from drought stress, using bamboo, fallen branches and cut vine. These appeared to give relief for the remainder of the drought, and all trees are now leafing fairly vigorously, but some severely affected mahoe may die later.


Tanekaha Ridge (sitework - 59 hours)

Exploration of the Western boundary of Gahnia Grove, as far downhill as the forest path across the ridge, revealed a fascinating regenerating dry kauri ridge community, currently dominated by rawirinui and mapou dotted with tanekaha and other podocarps, with an understorey of shining karamu, mingimingi, hangehange, kauri community ferns, clubmosses, Dianella nigra and rushes, particularly kauri sedge. Tanekaha are abundant at all stages from seedlings to young adults, and there are isolated young adult (probably less than 60 years old) kauri, rewarewa, kahikatea, miro, rimu, with mature kohuhu, toru, Dracophyllum sinclairii, and Pseudopanax - horoeka, puahou and houpara.

Even the outer margin canopied by hard pines holds a strange charm with its thousands of future native forest trees and dense stands of kauri sedge (Schoenus tendo) and Gahnia xanthpocarpa

the deep cushions of native mosses are a delight to behold

and the beauty of the seminal kauri ridge community was broken only, but jarringly, by occasional scattered invasives (Phoenix, Chusan, Bangalow, fan palm, Agapanthus, Bulbil Watsonia, Aristea Ecklonii, seedlings of ivy, climbing asparagus and honeysuckle, young pampas, Japanese cherry).

Longing for the privilege of ongoing access to this lovely area, and believing the minimal weed invasions observed to be manageable with 1-4 annual visits to each area, we adopted this Western extension to Gahnia Grove also, naming it Tanekaha Ridge. We are committed to arresting the development of the new weed invasions, and eradicating those species which have become established, with the exception of the mature pines, and cherry trees, the removal of which would require Resource consent and arborism.

We limit these foot tours to prevent disturbance, soil compaction and root damage, addressing all weeds present in any area while there, and visiting it thereafter through our photo files, which also help to obtain identification of those species new to us.Tanekaha Ridge evaluates the spontaneous regeneration of an area of rawirinui/podocarp forest on a dry kauri ridge, the numbers of new weed invasions occurring annually through seedlings, and the potential to keep an area of established forest weed-free by ongoing monitoring and manual control.

After the adoption of Tanekaha Ridge from August 2019, "Cherry Bay", a very weedy stretch of forest/recreational grass margin around a cherry tree, required an initial investment of many hours to control pampas, mothplant, honeysuckle, wattle, woolly nightshade, climbing asparagus, Arum, ginger, ivy, tree privet and Carex divulsa, with juvenile wild cherry trees, seedling bangalow and phoenix palm in the adjacent forest canopy.

The ongoing suppression of Aristea ecklonii and Watsonia throughout the dense manuka canopy below Gahnia Grove was extended down the ridge to include Tanekaha Ridge's manuka margin.

Posted by kaipatiki_naturewatch kaipatiki_naturewatch, June 30, 2020 21:27

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