Fire, pastoral farming and exotic species have been major drivers of vegetation change in the eastern South Island high country since human arrival. More recently, fire frequency and grazing intensity have declined allowing regeneration of previously suppressed woody elements in some areas, such as our 1775 ha Cass study site. We collected vegetation and abiotic data from 117 Recce plots (10 × 10 m) using an objective grid-based network to classify the vegetation, determine factors influencing vegetation pattern, discuss long-term vegetation changes and assess the role of exotic species.
The density of shrubs is increasing in many dry grassland ecosystems worldwide. In the dry interior of the South Island, New Zealand, secondary succession generates novel woody communities, as shrubs colonise anthropogenic grasslands where fire frequency has decreased. The avifauna of this dry region is also novel, with many indigenous birds extinct, extirpated or uncommon, and exotic species predominant.
Despite the global importance of New Zealands invertebrates, relatively little is known about them and their relationships with plants and plant communities in native habitats. Invertebrate diversity was examined by beating randomly chosen shrubs of the species Olearia bullata (Asteraceae) and Coprosma propinqua(Rubiaceae). Invertebrate taxon richness was assessed initially using morphospecies, which were identified subsequently by expert taxonomists. Though the taxon richness of invertebrates recorded from O. bullata was not significantly higher than that on C.
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.