Influence of pastoral management on plant biodiversity in a depleted short tussock grassland, Mackenzie Basin
This study investigated the effects of different management inputs (fertiliser and seed) and grazing patterns on plant biodiversity in a short tussock grassland with a strong Hieracium pilosella component. Cover abundance of vascular and non-vascular plants and environmental variables were measured in 32 10×10-m plots located in five blocks with different management treatments. Ordination of the floristic data separated the block with the highest management inputs from other blocks. Several adventive species were significantly more abundant in this block, while several native species were either absent or uncommon, but were significantly more abundant in other study blocks. H. pilosella was significantly more abundant in blocks with lower management inputs. Diversity was significantly higher in the block with the highest management inputs. The native tussock Poa colensoi had significantly greater cover abundance while Festuca novae-zelandiae tussocks were significantly taller in this block. Our results suggest that high management inputs reduce the abundance of H. pilosella and diversity of native species, but increase the abundance of other adventive species and the cover and vigour of native tussocks. Our results highlight an interesting management conundrum for short tussock grasslands. No-input management is likely to result in a decline in native biodiversity, as well as production values, as H. pilosella mats deplete soil nutrients and restrict regeneration of native species. However, input of fertiliser and adventive seeds to enhance production values, although resulting in an increase in the vigour and abundance of some native species (mainly tussocks) and a reduction in H. pilosella abundance, will also result in a decline in overall native species richness.