A study of the history of the development of grassland in New Zealand is also a study of a prolonged interaction between native and introduced plants in which there has usually been a strong and deliberately guided bias towards the supremacy of the introduced plants. Because much of the native vegetation does not meet the requirements of the farmer, he has tried to replace this with plants that do so.
We studied vegetation change on 142 permanently marked transects spread throughout tussock grasslands of Otago and Canterbury, in areas subject to both pastoral and conservation management. The transects were established between 1982 and 1986 and remeasured between 1993 and 1999, providing a record of vegetation change at each site over an interval varying from 10 to 15 years. Each transect consisted of 50 quadrats, each 0.25m(2), in which the presence of all vascular plant species had been recorded.
Rabbits are serious economic and environmental pests in New Zealand's semi arid lands, yet there is surprisingly little quantitative information about their grazing impacts. This paper describes the shortterm gains in pasture yield following protection from rabbit grazing in a rabbit-prone, dry tussock grassland community in Central Otago. During the four most productive plant growing months of 1994 (September to December), a six-fold increase in pasture yield was observed after protection from rabbit grazing (139 kg dry weight ha(-1) with rabbits cf. 853 kg DW ha(-1) without rabbits).
Vegetation changes were investigated on 27 transects in agriculturally unimproved short tussock grasslands dominated by Festuca novae-zelandine in the Harper-Avoca catchment, Canterbury. These were remeasured at 5 or 10 year intervals between 1965 and 1990. Change was widespread. It was characterised by invasions by exotic species, declines in native species (including F. novae-zelandine), and a trend towards vegetation dominated by the flatweeds Hieracium lepidulum and H. pilosella, and the grass Agrostis capillaris.
Feral horses (Equus caballus L.) occupy 64 000 ha of montane- subalpine tussock grassland in the south-western Kaimanawa Mountains, an area zoned for military training. Since 1979, the population has increased at 16.7% per annum, reaching 1102 in 1990. The most extensive habitat, red tussock (Chionochloa rubra) grassland, was variably affected by horses; tussocks in restricted mesic sites were heavily grazed and mostly eliminated, but those in extensive xeric grasslands showed little impact.