Woody plants in arid and semi-arid environments may enhance soil nutrient status, the so-called ‘fertile island’ effect, but this mechanism has never been tested in the drylands of New Zealand. In this study I investigated effects of Kunzea serotina, Discaria toumatou, Rosa rubiginosa, and Coprosma propinqua on soil properties in the drylands of central Otago, New Zealand. Soils had significantly higher organic matter under C. propinqua and significantly higher nitrate and phosphorus concentrations under K.
Changes in the vegetation of Flat Top Hill, a highly modified conservation area in semi;arid Central Otago, New Zealand, are described four years after the cessation of sheep and rabbit grazing. Unusually moist weather conditions coincide with the four-year period of change in response to the cessation of grazing. Between 1993 and 1997, the average richness and diversity (H') of species increased, and the average proportion of native species decreased significantly.
Predictions from three conceptual models of the dynamics of semi-arid vegetation (Clementsian succession, alternative stable states and annuation/pulse phenomena) are used to review the available evidence on changes in the vegetation of semi- arid lowland Central Otago, New Zealand. Evidence is presented from Central Otago that corresponds with Clementsian succession and with annuation/pulse phenomena, although there is so far no formal evidence of alternative stable states.