We sampled soils and vegetation within and outside two sheep and rabbit exclosures, fenced in 1979, on steep sunny and shady slopes at 770 m altitude on seasonally-dry pastoral steeplands. The vegetation of sunny aspects was characterised by higher floristic diversity, annual species, and low plant cover. Here the exotic grass Anthoxanthum odoratum dominated on grazed treatments, and the exotic forb Hieracium pilosella on ungrazed. Shady aspects supported fewer, and almost entirely perennial, species.
Fallow deer did not prefer either of the two main canopy species (silver beech, Nothofagus menziesii, and radiata pine, Pinus radiata), or any of the common indigenous shrubs, ferns, herbs and monocotyledons in three habitat types (beech, shrub-hardwood, and exotic forest). They did prefer all the common sub canopy tree species, and these comprised the bulk of diet in all habitats. Broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) was the most important single food, with litterfall being its dominant source.
Two conservation tools have been developed over the last 10–15 years for species on the New Zealand mainland that are vulnerable to introduced mammalian predators: landscape-scale predator trapping networks, and eradication of predators within mammal-proof exclosures. We tested whether these tools would allow population growth of critically endangered grand skinks (Oligosoma grande) and Otago skinks (O. otagense) over three years.