The lowland Canterbury Plains of New Zealand have been extensively modified since human occupation, but with recent conversions to irrigated dairy farming very few remnants of native dryland vegetation remain in the region. We investigated soil chemistry, plant distribution and soil invertebrates along transects in Bankside Scientific Reserve, a small (2.6 ha) remnant. The vegetation is a mosaic of native woody shrubs, predominantly Kunzea serotina (kanuka, Myrtaceae) and Discaria toumatou (matagouri, Rhamnaceae), and dry grassland.
Replacing native forests and grasslands with plantations, pastures and crops has resulted in both contraction of ranges and exploitation of modified habitats by native species, and both general and restricted dispersal of introduced species of soil fauna. Contraction is shown by native earthworms, land snails, ring nematodes and various arthropods, while the areas with changed land use suggest certain native insects are more numerous than 150 years ago. Damage to pastures by grass grub and porina show clearly how native species can exploit modified habitats.