New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2013) 37(1): 127- 138

Patterns of past and recent conversion of indigenous grasslands in the South Island, New Zealand

Research Article
Emily S. Weeks 1*
Susan Walker 2
John R. Dymond 1
James D. Shepherd 1
Bruce D. Clarkson 3
  1. Landcare Research, Private Bag 11052, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
  2. Landcare Research, Private Bag 1930, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
  3. The University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

We used recent satellite imagery to quantify the extent, type, and rate of conversion of remaining indigenous grasslands in the inland eastern South Island of New Zealand in recent years. We describe the pattern of conversion in relation to national classifications of land use capability and land environments, and ecological and administrative districts and regions. We show that although large areas of indigenous grasslands remain, grassland loss has been ongoing. Indigenous grassland was reduced in the study area by 3% (70 200 ha) between 1990 and 2008. Almost two-thirds of post-1990 conversion occurred in threatened environments with less than 30% of indigenous cover remaining, primarily in the Waitaki, Mackenzie and Central Otago administrative districts. This conversion occurred primarily on non-arable land. In the Mackenzie and Waitaki districts the rate of conversion in 2001–2008 was approximately twice that in 1990–2001. Opportunities to protect more of the full range of indigenous grasslands lie with the continuing tenure review process in these districts.