The response of rare herbaceous plants to the removal of weeds in an unproductive environment


We investigated the neighbourhood-scale effect of weeding on native plants in Lance McCaskill Nature Reserve, Canterbury, New Zealand. The reserve is an unproductive basin of limestone debris. Originally set up to protect the Castle Hill buttercup, Ranunculus crithmifolius var. paucifolius, the reserve also offers protection for nationally endangered species: Myosotis colensoi and Lepidium sisymbrioides. Our aim was to investigate whether removal of introduced plants increased the cover of remaining native species. We removed introduced plants, by hand, every year for 6 years from half of the plots. We used nonparametric multivariate analysis to compare overall species cover.

The results suggest that weeding does benefit the native plants in this area. There was a significant difference in the mean of the overall native species cover between the weeded and the non-weeded plots. For the ten species measured, the mean area covered per square metre was higher in the weeded plots than in the non-weeded plots in most years of the study. There was considerable variation in the data and we discuss possible reasons for this.


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Correspondence to J. A. Brown.

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Brown, J.A., Smith, A.N.H. & Robinson, T.J. The response of rare herbaceous plants to the removal of weeds in an unproductive environment. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 9, 53–58 (2008).

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  • Bootstrap confidence intervals
  • Non-parametric multivariate analysis
  • Weeding


  • New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (