We highlight three areas of significant progress in ecology since 1989 which are particularly relevant to New Zealand, and three major challenges for the next two decades. Progress: (1) The unusual life histories of New Zealand organisms, including extreme longevity and low reproductive rates, are now seen as efficient responses to the low-disturbance environment present before the arrival of large mammals, including humans.
We outline the scope of this special issue of New Zealand Journal of Ecology, which reviews progress in New Zealand ecology to 2009, based on a symposium in 2007. Both the issue and symposium update a 1986 conference and 1989 special issue of NZ J Ecol called “Moas, Mammals and Climate” which has been influential and widely cited.
Species composition patterns and vegetation–environment relationships were quantified for montane volcanic outcrops on Banks Peninsula. The flora of these habitat islands comprises 346 vascular plant species including 82 exotic species and 52 species that are nationally rare, regionally rare, or regional endemics. Both MDS ordination analysis and TWINSPAN results illustrated the high compositional and environmental heterogeneity across the outcrops.
The stomach contents of 158 hedgehogs captured at Macraes Flat, Otago, New Zealand, over two summers in 2000 and 2001 were examined for the occurrence of lizards. The remains of at least 43 skinks (both Oligosoma nigriplantare polychroma and O. maccanni) and one gecko (Hoplodactylus sp.) were found. Twenty-one percent (n = 33; 8 males and 25 females) of the examined hedgehogs had fed on skinks. Female hedgehogs ate significantly more skinks than did males.