Post-settlement faunal extinction rates are widely cited statistics and help to understand the magnitude of recent biodiversity loss driven by human activity. However, extinction rate estimates can vary greatly depending on factors such as the geographic boundaries of the region being considered, how the faunal group is defined, completeness of fossil records, and taxonomic frameworks.
We document from a sediment core collected at 23 m water depth offshore of Separation Point on the northern coast of Aotearoa New Zealand’s South Island, 3000 years of natural and human-induced change to undisturbed offshore sediments that are protected from contact fishing methods. Multivariate analysis of sediment characteristics and sources of primary productivity successfully differentiated the pre-human (< 1500 AD), Māori, and European periods (> 1850).
For tens of millions of years the ratite moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) were the largest herbivores in New Zealand’s terrestrial ecosystems. In occupying this ecological niche for such a long time, moa undoubtedly had a strong influence on the evolution of New Zealand’s flora and played important functional roles within ecosystems. The extinction of moa in the 15th century ce therefore marked a significant event in New Zealand’s biological history, not only in terms of biodiversity loss, but in the loss of an evolutionarily and ecologically distinct order of birds.
Canterbury’s gravelly outwash plains offer few of the natural deposits in which floral remains are typically preserved and hence represent a significant geographical gap in our knowledge about New Zealand’s pre-settlement terrestrial ecosystems and their response to anthropogenic activities. We contribute new insights into the poorly known Holocene vegetation history of this region by reporting two new mid-late Holocene pollen records from the western (Hallsbush) and eastern (Travis Swamp) margins of the Canterbury Plains.
New Zealand forests have been and are shaped by a suite of disturbance types that vary in both their spatial extent and frequency of recurrence. Post-disturbance forest dynamics can be complex, non-linear, and involve multiple potential pathways depending on the nature of a perturbation, site conditions, and history. To capture the full range of spatial and temporal dynamics that shape forest ecosystems in a given area, we need to use and synthesise data sources that collectively capture all the relevant space-time scales.