Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 87–96 | Cite as

Untangling the causes of vegetation change in a 5,300 year pollen record at Tiniroto Lakes, Gisborne, New Zealand

  • Xun LiEmail author
  • John R. Flenley
  • Gillian L. Rapson
Original Article


To address potential causes of disturbances in recent New Zealand vegetation a sediment core from Tiniroto Lakes near Gisborne was used to reconstruct the local history of ecological disturbance and vegetation dynamics. Our approach was to examine the pattern and rate of vegetation change, against known disturbances, in order to identify different causes of disturbance. Despite intermittent disturbances, a steady transformation of vegetation dominates the period from c. 4,900 to c. 2,300 cal. yrs b.p. This is a time of climatic amelioration, with increasing precipitation suggested by the decline of light-adapted taxa, together with the establishment of forest. After c. 2,300 cal. yrs b.p., vegetation change becomes much more irregular, and apparently driven by disturbances, including unusual ones, such as earthquakes. In contrast to earlier disturbances, later vegetation responses are typified by a reduction of forest species and the establishment of semi-open vegetation, which persists for decades. This dichotomy suggests that a change in disturbance regime, especially in terms of fire, characterises the period after c. 2,300 cal. yrs b.p. The rises of fire frequency and of intensity at that time could be a result of severe droughts under climate extremes associated with intensified ENSO frequencies.


Disturbances New Zealand Numerical analyses Pollen record Vegetation dynamics 



We are grateful to Massey University Research Fund for providing fund for AMS dating. We wish to thank Jamie Shulmeister, Bill Boyd, Ian Henderson and Trevor Worthy, as well as Doug Sutton and Vince Neall, for corrections and comments on this research. David Feek and Yunli Luo gave field assistance, and Rosemary van Essen helped with the figures. Christine Prior is also acknowledged for the guidance on sample preparation for pollen dating and comments on AMS dates, and Alan Palmer for tephra identification. Thanks are also due to Syd Kent for his kindly acquiescence to coring at Tiniroto, and Bob Berry and Anne Berry for their kind hospitality during our fieldwork in Tiniroto.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xun Li
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • John R. Flenley
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gillian L. Rapson
    • 3
  1. 1.Geography Programme, School of People, Environment & PlanningMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  2. 2.Institute of Natural ResourcesMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  3. 3.Ecology Group, Institute of Agriculture and EnvironmentMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  4. 4.GNS ScienceLower HuttNew Zealand

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