seed predation

Quantifying seed dispersal by birds and possums in a lowland New Zealand forest

Declines in native birds in New Zealand have raised questions about whether seed dispersal limits plant regeneration and whether introduced mammals such as brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) can replace absent native birds. We determined the relative contribution to seed dispersal by birds and possums in native secondary forest at Kowhai Bush, Kaikoura. The number of seeds dispersed per hectare per day by each animal species was determined based on the number of seeds per faecal pellet, the number of faecal pellets per animal per day, and the density of animals per hectare.

Animal modification of native vegetation: Dispersal and destruction of seed in central North Island podocarp forests

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Over the past six years studies have been carried out, mainly in dense podocarp stands of Pureora and Pouakani Forests, to gather information about the periodicity, abundance, and soundness of seed crops, the animals that disperse or destroy seed, and how they do so. The ultimate objective is to find out what part each bird, rodent or insect plays in assisting or limiting regeneration of timber species.

An experimental study of the impacts of understorey forest vegetation and herbivory by red deer and rodents on seedling establishment and species composition in Waitutu Forest, New Zealand

Introduced mammalian herbivores are changing the structure and composition of New Zealand’s forest ecosystems and may modify forest succession after natural disturbances. We studied how introduced ungulates (red deer and feral pigs) and rodents (rats and house mice) affected the rate of recovery (i.e. the engineering resilience) of the forest understorey following artificial disturbance.

Effects of forest edges on herbivory in a New Zealand mistletoe, Alepis flavida

This study examined how forest edges influenced leaf and floral herbivory, as well as seed predation, in a native New Zealand mistletoe species, Alepis flavida. Plants growing on forest edges and in forest interior were compared, and effects of plant size and the neighbouring conspecific plant community were also examined. Leaf herbivory by possums was significantly greater on forest edges than in forest interior in a year of high possum damage, but not in a year with low damage levels. Insect leaf herbivory did not differ between forest edges and interior.

Early Maori settlement impacts in northern coastal Taranaki, New Zealand

Pollen and charcoal analyses of sediments from northern coastal Taranaki, New Zealand, show that Maori settlement impacts on the vegetation began with the burning of tall coastal forest in the mid-17th century. Forest was replaced with a fern-shrubland, and small wetlands expanded with changing hydrological conditions. This forest clearance was much later than in most regions of the country, where major forest disturbance and clearance began between AD 1200 and AD 1400.

Effects of possums and rats on seedling establishment at two forest sites in New Zealand

Introduced rodents and possums in New Zealand eat flowers, fruits, seeds and seedlings, but little is known about their impact on forest regeneration. We investigated seedling establishment in exclosures with mesh of two different sizes to exclude (1) possums and (2) possums and rats, at two mainland forest sites (beech–podocarp–broadleaved and second-growth broadleaved–podocarp) near Dunedin. We recorded all new woody seedlings that established over the next 2 years.

Lack of pre-dispersal seed predators in introduced Asteraceae in New Zealand

The idea that naturalised invading plants have fewer phytophagous insects associated with them in their new environment relative to their native range is often assumed, but quantitative data are few and mostly refer to pests on crop species. In this study, the incidence of seed-eating insect larvae in flowerheads of naturalised Asteraceae in New Zealand is compared with that in Britain where the species are native. Similar surveys were carried out in both countries by sampling 200 flowerheads of three populations of the same thirteen species.

The diet of the North Island kaka (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis) on Kapiti Island

Food of the North Island kaka (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis) on Kapiti Island was identified while quantifying the foraging activity of nine radio-tagged birds from March 1991 to January 1992. Additional food types were identified by opportunistic observation of feeding birds and qualitative examination of nestling faeces. A diverse range of food was taken, including wood-boring invertebrates, scale insects, seeds, nectar or pollen, fruits, and sap.

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.

Causes and consequences of frequent flowering on edges in the mast-seeding genus Chionochloa (Poaceae)

Recent work has shown that resource accumulation is important in allowing mast-seeding plants to display occasional intense reproductive efforts. Anecdotal reports suggest that Chionochloa tussocks (bunchgrasses) on patch edges flower more frequently, and it has been proposed that this is due to greater resource availability. This study aimed to quantify any edge effect in flowering effort in Chionochloa populations at Mt Hutt in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and to look for correlations with available soil nutrients.

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