island ecosystems

Legacy of avian-dominated plant–herbivore systems in New Zealand

Avian herbivores dominated New Zealand’s pre-settlement terrestrial ecosystems to an unparalleled extent, in the absence of a terrestrial mammal fauna. Approximately 50% (88 taxa) of terrestrial bird species consumed plant foliage, shoots, buds and flowers to some degree, but fewer than half these species were major herbivores. Moa (Dinornithiformes) represent the greatest autochthonous radiation of avian herbivores in New Zealand. They were the largest browsers and grazers within both forest and scrubland ecosystems.