The ecological impacts of feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are of concern in many places around the world. One noticeable impact is soil disturbance, although the causes and consequences are often unclear. We measured the effect of ground disturbance by feral pigs on seedling recruitment and soil ecology over 25 months on a forested riparian terrace at Waitutu, south Fiordland, New Zealand, and assessed the diet of pigs from the area from stomach contents of animals shot by hunters. Foraging by feral pigs for below-ground food disturbed between 7.4% and 12.4% of the soil.
The role of backcountry huts as focal points for weed establishment and spread into New Zealand’s national parks has received little attention. In this study we describe the pattern of weed spread around Takahe Valley Hut, Murchison Mountains, Fiordland National Park. Established in 1948, the hut is located at 900 m a.s.l. at the ecotone between Nothofagus forest and valley floor shrubland/grassland. We recorded the distribution of vascular plants in quadrats (110) placed by restricted randomisation around the hut, and measured relative irradiance and distance from the hut.
Most research into the diet of stoats in New Zealand has been in low altitude valleys such as the Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys. Yet much of New Zealand’s national parks (e.g. Fiordland National Park) consist of many small montane valleys and alpine areas. This research identified the key prey species of stoats inhabiting such small montane valleys and alpine grasslands.
High deer numbers in northern Fiordland in the 1960s significantly changed forest understorey composition. The density of woody plants in the understorey was reduced in some areas by as much as 50%, and preferred plants became less abundant than those seldom eaten. However, the impact of deer and wapiti varied between forest types.
A significant recovery of food plants preferred by introduced deer (Cervus elaphus) occurred between 1969 and 1984 on 57 permanent plots in the alpine grasslands of northern Fiordland. During this period the deer population was reduced markedly by hunters operating from helicopters.
Deer density indices were estimated in 1969, 1975, and 1984 in the core of the Wapiti Area of Fiordland National Park. Between 1969 and 1984, density above timberline was reduced to near zero by commercial airborne hunting, with smaller decreases in the forest. Overall density declined by 81%. An estimated 2007± 385 deer were present in the 850 km2 survey area in 1984, with an average density in the forest of 3.47±0.66/km2. The highest densities remained in the most completely forested sub-area (Catseye).
Forest types of the Wapiti, Doon and Glaisnock catchments, ranked in order of proportion of preferred food species for deer, paralleled a gradient of landform stability. Seral forests and low altitude silver beech forests were preferred deer habitat because they contained the largest proportions of highly preferred species. They often occurred on unstable landforms such as debris cones, colluvial sideslopes, and terraces with recent and compound soils, assumed to be of high nutrient status.