The role of seabirds and seals in the survival of coastal plants: lessons from New Zealand Lepidium (Brassicaceae)
Source: Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 6, Number 6, 1997 , pp. 765-785(21)
Abstract:Six of the eight indigenous New Zealand Lepidium species are coastal, and have restricted or reduced distributions. One is extinct and the remainder are considered threatened with extinction. This limited distribution is in marked contrast to their apparent abundance in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (1760s–1830s). Accounts from the voyages of Cook, Surville and d‘Urville describe L. oleraceum as an abundant coastal plant which was collected extensively for use as an antiscorbutic. However, by the late 19th century, resident botanists were expressing concern about the marked decline in coastal species of Lepidium, a decline which has continued to the present. Ecologically, coastal species of Lepidium are similar, being restricted to open sites often close to the high tide mark. They are commonly associated with bird colonies, and occasionally with fur seal colonies. Traditionally their decline has been attributed to introduced herbivores. However, wild grazing animals were not common until the end of the 19th century, well after the initial decline had occurred. Other possible reasons for their decline include herbivory and predation by rats, and by fungal and invertebrate pests of cultivated Brassicaceae, overcollecting and coastal development. However, we suggest that a major factor in the decline of coastal Lepidium species was a decline in coastal seabirds through predation and seals through culling. Seabirds and seals are critical for the survival of Lepidium species by keeping sites open through disturbance, dispersing seed, and providing nutrient enrichment for plant growth, and their loss has resulted in decline of habitat for Lepidium.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Conservation Research Group, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand . 2: Science and Research Division, Department of Conservation, Private Bag 68908, Newton, Auckland, New Zealand . 3: School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand . 4: David Given and Associates, 101 Jeffreys Road, Christchurch, New Zealand .
Publication date: January 1, 1997