Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 681–695 | Cite as

Looking Back for the Future: Local Knowledge and Palaeoecology Inform Biocultural Restoration of Coastal Ecosystems in New Zealand

  • Philip O’B. Lyver
  • Janet M. Wilmshurst
  • Jamie R. Wood
  • Christopher J. Jones
  • Mairie Fromont
  • Peter J. Bellingham
  • Clive Stone
  • Michael Sheehan
  • Henrik Moller


We combine local knowledge of elders and environmental practitioners from two indigenous Māori communities and pollen evidence in soil cores from two islands and two mainland coastal sites to inform the planning of coastal ecosystem restoration initiatives in New Zealand. The Māori participants desired ecosystems that delivered cultural (e.g., support for identity), social (e.g., knowledge transfer), economic (e.g., agroecology) and environmental (e.g., biodiversity protection) outcomes to their communities. Pollen records identified three periods when vegetation was dominated by different taxa: (1) Pre-human (<AD c.1280) – forest dominated by native conifers, angiosperms and nīkau palm (Rhopalostylis sapida); (2) Māori settlement (AD c.1280–1770) – scrub and bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum); and (3) European settlement (post-1770) – Metrosideros excelsa forest with harakeke (Phormium sp.), raupō (Typha orientalis), grasses (Poaceae), exotic plantation conifers (Pinaceae), and agricultural weeds. A fourth, aspirational system that integrated human activities such as agriculture and horticulture with native forest was conceptualized. Our approach emphasizes the importance of placing humans within nature and the reciprocity of environmental and social well-being.


Biocultural restoration Biodiversity Ecosystem states Māori Pollen New Zealand 



We thank the interviewees from the Ngātiwai and Ngātikahu ki Whangaroa communities for allowing their local knowledge to be used in this study. We also thank I. Sutherland for contributions in the field, K. Boot for sediment sampling and charcoal analyses, G. Rattray for pollen preparations, D. Towns and two anonymous reviewers for their comments, and C. Bezar for editorial assistance. This work was supported by Core Funding for Crown Research Institutes, and Te Hiringa Tangata Ki Tai Pari Ki Tai Timu—Bicultural restoration of coastal forest ecosystems programme (C09X0908), from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Science and Innovation Group. Our thanks also go to B. Shepherd and the Department of Conservation, Northland, for permits and access to lands to collect soil samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip O’B. Lyver
    • 1
  • Janet M. Wilmshurst
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jamie R. Wood
    • 1
  • Christopher J. Jones
    • 1
  • Mairie Fromont
    • 3
  • Peter J. Bellingham
    • 1
  • Clive Stone
    • 4
  • Michael Sheehan
    • 5
  • Henrik Moller
    • 6
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Environment, University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Palmerston NorthNew Zealand
  4. 4.Ngātiwai Trust BoardWhangareiNew Zealand
  5. 5.Ririwha Restoration TrustAucklandNew Zealand
  6. 6.CSAFEUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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