Recovery of Tawa-dominated forest fragments in the Rotorua Basin, New Zealand, after cessation of livestock grazing


  • Mike B. Dodd,

  • Ian L. Power

  • Mike Dodd and Ian Power are researchers in the Land & Environmental Management section of AgResearch (Ruakura Research Centre, Private Bag 3123, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand; Tel. +64 7 8385912; Fax: +64 7 8385130; Email: This study was part of an indigenous biodiversity restoration project within a research programme on the management of hill country pastoral systems for multiple outcomes.


Summary  Tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa)-dominated forest fragments on farms within the Rotorua Basin were surveyed to quantify the likely recovery processes following exclusion of domestic livestock grazing, using a space-for-time substitution approach. Vegetation structure, plant diversity and soil fertility were measured at 24 sites within 15 forest fragments on six farms, covering a range in time since exclusion from grazing of 1–53 years. The forest fragments were compared with a large area of ungrazed forest in the nearby Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve. As time since exclusion from grazing increased, indigenous plant species diversity increased (up to 30–35 years); ground fern and epiphyte abundance increased (up to 30–35 years); tree seedling and sapling numbers, and litter cover also increased (up to 10–15 years); and overall tree numbers increased, while average tree diameter at breast height and overall tree basal area did not differ significantly. The soil fertility status was highly variable, obscuring clear patterns, although Olsen P status decreased with time since grazing exclusion. Once grazing of forest fragments ceases, significant changes in their diversity, structure and soil characteristics can be expected, which indicate recovery of these plant communities towards the conditions observed in ungrazed forest.