Substantial areas of alpine tall tussock grasslands are being retired from grazing as part of Crown pastoral lease tenure review because of the perceived negative impact of grazing livestock. However, relatively little is known about the effect of sheep exclusion on these grasslands. We analysed data from five grazing exclosure plots over a 6-year period to examine the effect merino sheep have relative to hares and rabbits in alpine tall tussock grasslands used for summer grazing.
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.
The effects of environment and management on the composition of short-tussock grasslands and the abundance of the invasive weed Hieracium pilosella were investigated in two small catchments. Species composition and site factors were recorded on a total of 182 plots and the management history of each catchment was reviewed. H. pilosella was present on >80% of all plots, but was at an early stage of invasion in one catchment (<5% cover) and dominant in the other (25% 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.