New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1989) 12(s): 3- 10

New Zealand Plant-Herbivore Systems—Past and Present

Research Article
G. Caughley  
  1. CSIRO, Division Wildlife and Ecology P.O. Box 84, Lyneham, ACT 2602, Australia

The history of the New Zealand biota over the last 7000 years may be divided into three phases. BC 5000 to AD 1000 was a period of comparative ecological stasis. That equilibrium was disrupted between AD 1000 and AD 1800 by the destruction of most of the New Zealand plant-herbivore systems, the co-evolutionary relationship between the plants and the vertebrate herbivores being decoupled by about AD 1400. After AD 1800 new plant-herbivore systems were progressively developed and new ecological relationships forged. Our view of that past, and of how the future might best be managed, has less to do with those facts than with judgements of value.