New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2010) 34(1): 1- 5

Feathers to Fur: the status of New Zealand ecological research in 2009

Review Article
Jon J. Sullivan 1*
Dave Kelly 2
Jenny J. Ladley 2
  1. Bio-Protection Research Centre, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand
  2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

We outline the scope of this special issue of New Zealand Journal of Ecology, which reviews progress in New Zealand ecology to 2009, based on a symposium in 2007. Both the issue and symposium update a 1986 conference and 1989 special issue of NZ J Ecol called “Moas, Mammals and Climate” which has been influential and widely cited. This issue revisits several themes featured in 1989, including the extent of recent and prehistoric extinctions in the New Zealand fauna; effects of introduced mammalian herbivores replacing now-extinct browsing birds such as moa; the impacts of introduced mammalian predators on native birds (hence the Feathers to Fur title); the role of islands as refuges and opportunities for restoration; and the status of bird–plant mutualisms like pollination and fruit dispersal. Several topics not discussed in 1989 are raised, including the unusual size and functional composition of New Zealand’s tree flora, and several taxonomic groups (invertebrates, fungi) and habitats (fresh waters) that received little attention in 1989. We summarise four symposium talks which are not included elsewhere in this issue. New Zealand leads the world in ways both unenviable (e.g. levels of impact of introduced species) and enviable (e.g. predator eradication, translocations, rare species management. The recent advances reviewed in this issues have relevance well beyond New Zealand.