New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2018) 42(2): 240- 247

Two new Holocene vegetation records from the margins of the Canterbury Plains, South Island, New Zealand

Research Article
Jamie R. Wood 1*
Janet M. Wilmshurst 1,2
Matthew S. McGlone 1
  1. Long-term Ecology Lab, Landcare Research, PO Box 69040, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand
  2. School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Canterbury’s gravelly outwash plains offer few of the natural deposits in which floral remains are typically preserved and hence represent a significant geographical gap in our knowledge about New Zealand’s pre-settlement terrestrial ecosystems and their response to anthropogenic activities. We contribute new insights into the poorly known Holocene vegetation history of this region by reporting two new mid-late Holocene pollen records from the western (Hallsbush) and eastern (Travis Swamp) margins of the Canterbury Plains. Both records show local forest dominance prior to Polynesian settlement. Forest was cleared rapidly after human settlement at the eastern site, but despite local fires that burnt the wetland the forest was retained at the western site until after European settlement. Together with the few pollen records previously published from the margins of the Canterbury Plains, a clear pattern of beech forest dominance in the west and podocarp/hardwood forest dominance on the plains to the east at the time of human settlement emerges. However, additional sites on the Canterbury Plains are essential for a better understanding of the pre-settlement composition and heterogeneity of vegetation communities within this region.