Adult mortality, seed production, and seedling establishment of two species of New Zealand broom (Carmichaelia juncea and C. vexillata) were studied in exclosure trials to determine the level of threat posed by herbivory by introduced mammals. While no effect on mortality was observed for either species, herbivory by hares drastically reduced seed production and subsequent seedling establishment in C. juncea. C. vexillata seemed less vulnerable to herbivore damage due to its plant architecture, as well as the timing and intensity of the herbivore impact.
Introduced brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) are controlled over large parts of New Zealand to protect canopy trees. The condition of canopy trees is one of the cues used to trigger possum control, but selecting an indicator of canopy tree condition is difficult because many factors unrelated to possum browsing can affect canopy condition, and indices based on canopy scoring may not always quickly detect real changes in possum herbivory.
To assess the effect of possum browse on plant growth, an index of the amount of foliage on about 50 trees of Fuchsia excorticata and the number of trees that died or were completely defoliated was measured at five sites in South Westland over 5 years. This index was compared to possum density indices taken at each site each year. At one site, possums were reduced from a high density about 6 months before the final measurement. The degree of defoliation of fuchsia was significantly related to the density of possums at each site.
The seasonal variation in possum browse and foliage cover of five possum-preferred species was quantified and studied in northern Westland, New Zealand over a 24 month period. Four of the five species (Pseudopanax simplex, P. colensoi, Aristotelia serrata, and Elaeocarpus hookerianus) showed marked seasonal patterns in both browse and foliage cover, with maximum browse evident in winter/spring when foliage cover was at a minimum. There was very little browse and no seasonal pattern in foliage cover for the fifth species, Pseudopanax crassifolius.