Natural grasslands are among the most threatened biomes on Earth. They are under pressure from land cover change including afforestation, farming intensification, invasive species, altered fire regimes, and soil amendments, all of which impact native biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In Aotearoa New Zealand, tussock-dominated native grasslands expanded due to increased fire activity during waves of human settlement. These areas have subsequently been maintained as modified grasslands by agricultural pastoral land management practices and effects of introduced feral mammals.
The adzebills (Aptornithidae) were an ancient endemic lineage of large flightless Gruiformes that became extinct shortly after Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. The diet and ecology of these enigmatic birds has long been a matter for conjecture, but recent stable isotope analyses of bones of the North Island adzebill (Aptornis otidiformis) have indicated that adzebills may have been predatory. Here, we add to our understanding of adzebill ecology by providing the first stable isotope analyses of South Island adzebill (A. defossor) bones from two Holocene deposits.
The rhizomatous species Coriaria sarmentosa and C. angustissima bear coralloid clusters of root nodules which actively fix atmospheric nitrogen. Using rooted cuttings, comparative measurements were made of growth, net photosynthesis, dark respiration and nitrogen fixation in the two species. In both, the optimum temperatures for growth and net photosynthesis are 16-18¡C. Over a range of temperature and light intensity C. sarmentosa possesses a higher rate of net photosynthesis than its more diminuitive sister species C. angustissima.
We sampled soils and vegetation within and outside two sheep and rabbit exclosures, fenced in 1979, on steep sunny and shady slopes at 770 m altitude on seasonally-dry pastoral steeplands. The vegetation of sunny aspects was characterised by higher floristic diversity, annual species, and low plant cover. Here the exotic grass Anthoxanthum odoratum dominated on grazed treatments, and the exotic forb Hieracium pilosella on ungrazed. Shady aspects supported fewer, and almost entirely perennial, species.
There has been considerable ongoing debate about the extent to which the impacts of introduced deer on native vegetation have replaced those of moa, and since the 1980s there have been major changes in thinking about the impacts of deer and ratites on ecosystems. Although it has long been known that deer caused a predictable sequence of changes in forest understorey composition, recent work has shown that the foliage of species preferred by deer contains lower concentrations of fibre – and decomposes faster – than avoided species.