From a plant point of view, the three largest islands, Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie, together with Stewart Island, can be regarded as the southernmost point of the New Zealand mainland. While having only limited floras, the subantarctic islands make up for their lack of diversity in their spectacular range of large-leaved herbs (usually called megaherbs) endemic to the islands, while alien species threaten to dominate native vegetation in some areas. On all the islands, winds from the westerly quarter play a dominant role in restricting woody growth and, on the most exposed cliff edges, tussock as well. How different species on the subantarctic islands have responded to human activity and climate change is an important area of research.
The rata forest of the Auckland Islands
Braving the elements we explore the vegetation on the subantarctic islands.
The research program
On the AAE 2013-2014 we investigated how plant perform at the limits of woody vegetation across Auckland and Campbell Islands?
On the AAE 2013-2014 we wanted to find out how does bark thickness vary among the woody species on the subantarctic islands and whether there is evidence for the hypothesis that fire is the major driver of thick bark globally?
Alien plants are a major environmental problem, particularly on islands where they can rapidly transform unique indigenous ecosystems. Nowhere is this more true than on the subantarctic islands. Here we show the alien daisy tree was introduced by sealers in 1807, supported by nutrient delivery from nesting sea birds, seals and sea spray.Download