Changes in vegetation from 1990 to 2000 were examined at 10 high country localities, representing four grassland types: fescue tussock (Festuca novae-zelandiae), snow tussock (Chionochloa rigida), red tussock (C. rubra), and silver tussock (Poa cita). At each locality, three treatments were established: ambient sheep+rabbit grazing, rabbit grazing only, and no grazing. The mutivariate methods of classification and ordination were used on individual-quadrat cover data to define vegetation states and to examine transitions between them over time.
Changes in Hieracium abundance in Eastern Otago tussock grassland were examined by sampling 163 sites in 1982 and again in 1992. For Hieracium pilosella, H. praealtum and H. lepidulum, as well as Agrostis capillaris for comparison, colonisation of new sites was recorded, as well as extinction of species from sites over the 10 years, and changes in cover. H. pilosella colonised the majority of sites from which it had been absent in 1982; it disappeared from only a few sites where it had been present at very low cover.
Vegetation changes were investigated on 27 transects in agriculturally unimproved short tussock grasslands dominated by Festuca novae-zelandine in the Harper-Avoca catchment, Canterbury. These were remeasured at 5 or 10 year intervals between 1965 and 1990. Change was widespread. It was characterised by invasions by exotic species, declines in native species (including F. novae-zelandine), and a trend towards vegetation dominated by the flatweeds Hieracium lepidulum and H. pilosella, and the grass Agrostis capillaris.
A technique for inferring long term time trends in vegetation from permanent quadrat data using the different patterns in the scattergram of the mean and rates of change of attributes, e.g., cover, from individual quadrats over short periods is described. The technique is illustrated using point intercept cover data for Hieracium species from permanent transects in the Waimakariri measured at intervals over 35 years. There was an exponential increase of 8.6% of Hieracium spp. percentage cover once they appeared in a quadrat up to about 15% cover.
A plant sociological survey of tall-tussock grasslands in the Mackenzie country was repeated after an interval of 26-28 years. Changes in physiognomy of the grasslands which have been inferred from earlier studies have been found to be continuing on many sites. A noteworthy feature of most sites has been a reduction in number of indigenous species found. An increase in abundance of Hieracium pilosella or H. praealtum has occurred at most sites.