Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Janet Wilmshurst

Janet Wilmshurst
Position: Programme Leader
Team: Ecosystems & Global Change
Location: Lincoln
P.O. Box 69040
Lincoln 7640
Phone: +64 3 321 9836
Fax: +64 3 321 9998

Contact Janet

Research Interests

Research Interests

Role at Landcare Research


Research Programme Leader “Ecosystem Resilience”

Also part time (0.2 FTE) Associate Professor at School of Environment, University of Auckland:

Research interests

  • Impact and timing of early human settlement on vegetation and landscape stability in New Zealand and other East Polynesian islands using pollen, charcoal and macrofossil analyses, and radiocarbon dating
  • Reconstructing the diets of New Zealand's extinct avian megaherbivores, their role in past ecosystems, and the impact of their extinctions on the vegetation
  • Dating the arrival and impact of the human commensal Rattus exulans (Polynesian rat) in New Zealand and other East Polynesian islands by AMS radiocarbon dating of rat-gnawed seed cases from buried forest litter and peat deposits.
  • Detecting the impact of natural disturbance events (fires, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes) on past vegetation using fine resolution pollen, charcoal and sediment analyses.
  • Developing Holocene climate proxies: using macrofossils and testate amoebae from peat bogs to reconstruct past precipitation, and surface moisture conditions.
  • Comparing the history of deer browsing on forest understorys in NZ with avian herbivory in prehuman era, using fine resolution palynology and coprolite analysis.
  • Using fine resolution pollen analysis of forest hollow soil cores to examine stand-scale forest dynamics.
  • Exploring the use of prehistoric vegetation as baselines for restoration.

Professional affiliations/recognition

  • Nominated member of Scientific Steering Committee, PAGES (Past Global Change) a core project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) (2012-2015).
  • “Science Excellence Award” from Warren Parker, CEO, Landcare Research (2009).
  • Honorary Fellow of Anthropology Department, University of Otago (2009- )
  • Member of North Canterbury Quaternary Heritage Sites Advisory Committee (2008- )
  • Leverhulme Visiting Research Fellowship. For 10 months research at the Quaternary Environments Research Group, University of Plymouth, UK. (2000/2001).
  • President of the New Zealand Ecological Society (2001-2004)
  • Vice-President of the New Zealand Ecological Society (1999-2001)
  • Award for best student paper “Effects of Polynesian and European settlement on the Lake Tutira catchment, Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Ecological Society conference, Christchurch (1992).
  • Commonwealth Scholarship, for PhD research on: “A 2000 year history of vegetation and landscape change in Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand”, at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand (1990-1994).
  • Award for best BSc (Hons) Environmental Science thesis. Plymouth University, UK (1988).

Recent publications

See also:

Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS, Turney MSM, 2015. Long-term ecology resolves the timing, region of origin, and process of establishment for a disputed alien tree. Annals of Botany Plants. AoB Plants 7, plv104.

Lyver, P OB’, Wilmshurst JM, Wood JR, Bellingham PJ, Jones CJ, Towns DR, Stone C, Moller H. 2015. Looking back for the future: local knowledge and palaeoecology inform biocultural restoration of coastal ecosystems in New Zealand. Human Ecology 43, 681-695. DOI 10.1007/s10745-015-9784-7

Richardson SJ, Laughlin DC, Lawes MJ, Holdaway RJ, Wilmshurst JM, Wright M, Curran TJ, Bellingham PJ, McGlone MS. 2015. Bark thickness variation in a fire-free temperate rain forest flora is only weakly related to functional traits and environment.  American Journal of Botany. 102 (10) 1-9.

Perry GLW, Wilmshurst JM, Ogden J, Enright, N. 2015. Exotic mammals and invasive plants alter fire-related thresholds in southern temperate forested landscapes.  Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-015-9898-1

Rogers GND, Bonner KI, Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM 2015. The rail-cutter: a simple, cheap and compact system for opening sediment cores in the lab and field. Journal of Paleolimnology 53 (4) 433-436. DOI 10.1007/s10933-015-9830-x

Wood JR, Dickie IA, Moeller HV, Peltzer DA, Bonner KI, Rattray G, and Wilmshurst JM. 2015. Novel interactions between non-native mammals and fungi facilitate establishment of invasive pines. Journal of Ecology. 103 (1) 121–129. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12345

Whitlock C, McWethy DB, Tepley AJ, Veblen TT, Holz A, McGlone MS, Perry GLW, Wilmshurst JM, Wood SW. 2015. Past and present vulnerability of closed-canopy temperate forests to altered fire regimes: a comparison of the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and Patagonia. Bioscience 65 (2) 151-163. 10.1093/biosci/biu194

McWethy DB, Wilmshurst JM, Whitlock C, Wood JR, McGlone MS. 2014. A high-resolution chronology of rapid forest transitions following Polynesian arrival in New Zealand. PLOS One. 9 (11) e111328. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111328

Richardson SJ, Clayton R, Rance RD, Broadbent H, McGlone MS, Wilmshurst JM. 2014. Small wetlands are critical for safeguarding threatened plant species. Applied Vegetation Science. DOI: 10.1111/avsc.12144

Perry GLW, Wheeler A, Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2014. A high precision chronology for the rapid extinction of New Zealand moa (Aves, Dinornithiformes). Quaternary Science Reviews 105, 126-135.

Wood, J.R., Mitchell, K.J., Scofield, R.P., Tennyson, A.J.D., Fidler, A.E., Wilmshurst, J.M., Llamas, B., Cooper, A. 2014. An extinct nestorine parrot (Aves, Psittaciformes, Nestoridae) from the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 172, 185-199. DOI: 10.1111/zoj.12164

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2014. Late Quaternary terrestrial vertebrate coprolites from New Zealand. Quaternary Science Reviews (98) 1-12. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.05.020

Harsch MA, McGlone MS, Wilmshurst JM. 2014. Winter climate limits subantarctic low forest growth and establishment. PLOS One 9 (4) e93241. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093241

Perry, G, Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S. 2014. A review of the ecology and long-term history of fire in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 38 (2) 157-176.

Wilmshurst JM, Moar NT, Wood JR, Bellingham PJ, Findlater AM, Robinson JJ, Stone C. 2014. Use of pollen and ancient DNA as conservation baselines for offshore islands in New Zealand. Conservation Biology 28 (1): 202-212. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12150.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Richardson SJ, Rawlence NJ, Wagstaff SJ, Worthy TH, Cooper A. 2013. Extinct herbivore community structure resolved by analysis of coprolites from four sympatric New Zealand moa species (Aves: Dinornithiformes). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (42), 16910-16915.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2013. Age of North Island giant moa (Dinornis novaezealandiae) bones found on the forest floor in the Ruahine Range. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 43 (4), 250-255. DOI:10.1080/03036758.2012.751038.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM. 2013. Accumulation rates or percentages? How to quantify Sporormiella and other coprophilous fungal spores to detect late Quaternary megafaunal extinction events. Quaternary Science Reviews 77, 1-3.

Sikes EL, Medeiros PM, Augustinus P, Wilmshurst JM, Freeman K. 2013. Seasonal variations in aridity and temperature characterize changing climate during the last deglaciation in New Zealand Quaternary Science Reviews 74: 245-256.

McWethy, DB, Higuera, PE, Whitlock, C, Veblen, TT, Bowman, D, Cary, GJ, Haberle, SG, Keane, RE, Maxwell, BD,  McGlone, MS, Perry, GLW, Wilmshurst, JM, Holz A, Tepley AJ. 2013. A conceptual framework for predicting temperate ecosystem sensitivity to human-impacts on fire regimes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22 (8) 900–912. DOI: 10.1111/geb.12038.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Rawlence NJ, Boot K, Worthy TH, Kinsella JM, Cooper A. 2013. A megafauna's microfauna: gastrointestinal parasites of New Zealand's extinct moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes). PLoS One 8(2):e57315.

Wood JM, Wilmshurst JM. 2013. Pollen analysis of coprolites reveals further dietary details of heavy –footed moa (Pachyornis elephantopus) and coastal moa (Euryapteryx curtus) from Central Otago. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 37 (1) 151-155.

Newnham R, McGlone M, Moar N, Wilmshurst JM, Vandergoes M. 2013. The vegetation cover of New Zealand at the last glacial maximum Quaternary Science Reviews 74, 202-214.

Harsch MA, Buxton, R, Duncan RP, Hulme PE, Wardle P, Wilmshurst JM. 2012. Causes of treeline stability: stem growth, recruitment and mortality rates over 15 years at New Zealand Nothofagus treelines. Journal of Biogeography 39 (11) 2061–2071.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Worthy TH, Holzapfel, Cooper A. 2012. A Lost Link between a Flightless Parrot and a Parasitic Plant and the Potential Role of Coprolites in Conservation PaleobiologyConservation Biology 26 (6) 1091-1099.

Perry, G, Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S. Napier, A. 2012. Reconstructing spatial vulnerability to forest loss by fire in prehistoric New Zealand. Global Ecology and Biogeography (21) 1029 -1041.

Wood, J.R., Wilmshurst, J.M., Worthy, T.H., Cooper, A. 2012. First coprolite evidence for the diet of Anomalopteryx didiformis, an extinct forest ratite from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 36 (2) 164-170.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Wagstaff SJ, Worthy TH, Rawlence NJ, Cooper A. 2012. High-resolution coproecology: Using coprolites to reconstruct the habits and habitats of New Zealand's extinct upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus). PLoS ONE 7 (6) e40025.

Wood, J.R., Wilmshurst, J.M. 2012. Wetland soil moisture complicates the use of Sporormiella to trace past herbivore populations. Journal of Quaternary Science 27 (3) 254–259.

Perry, G, Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S., McWethy, D. Whitlock, C. 2012. Explaining fire-driven landscape transformation during the Initial Burning Period of New Zealand’s prehistory Global Change Biology 18 (5) 1609-1621.

Newnham R, Vandergoes M, Sikes, E, Carter L, Wilmshurst J.M, Lowe D, McGlone, M, Sandiford A. 2012. Does the bipolar seesaw extend to the terrestrial southern mid-latitudes? Quaternary Science Reviews (36), 214–222.

Wood, J.R., Wilmshurst, J.M., Rawlence, N.J. 2011. Radiocarbon-dated faunal remains correlate very large rockfall deposit with prehistoric Alpine fault rupture. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 54: 431-434.

Rieth, T, Hunt, TL, Lipo, C, Wilmshurst J.M. 2011. The thirteenth century Polynesian colonisation of Hawai'i Island. Journal of Archaeological Science (38) 2740-2749.

Rawlence, N.J., Scofield, R.P., Wood, J.R., Wilmshurst, J.M., Moar, N.T., Worthy, T.H. 2011. New palaeontological data from the excavation of the Late Glacial Glencrieff miring bone deposit, North Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 41 (3) 217-236.

Wilmshurst, JM, Hunt T, Lipo C. Anderson A.  2011. Reply to Mulrooney et al: Accepting lower precision radiocarbon dates results in longer colonization chronologies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108 (23) E195.

Moar NT, Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS. 2011. Standardising names applied to pollen and spores in Quaternary New Zealand palynology. New Zealand Journal of Botany 49 (2) 201-229. DOI 10.1080/0028825X.2010.526617.

Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, Cooper A, Worthy TH. 2011. Sporormiella as a proxy for non-mammalian herbivores in island ecosystems Quaternary Science Reviews(30) 915-925. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.01.007.

Wilmshurst JM, Hunt T, Lipo C, Anderson A.  2011. High precision radiocarbon dating shows recent and rapid initial human colonization of East Polynesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108 (5) 1815-1820.

McGlone, M.S., Hall, GMJ, Wilmshurst JM. 2011. Seasonality in the early Holocene: extending fossil-based estimates with a forest ecosystem process model. The Holocene 2 (523-532) DOI: 10.1177/0959683610385717.

McWethy D.B., Whitlock C, Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS, Fromont M, Li X, Dieffenbacher-Krall A, Hobbs WO, Fritz S, Cook ER. 2010. Rapid landscape transformation in South Island, New Zealand following initial Polynesian settlement.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107 (50) 21343-21348. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1011801107.

 McGlone MS, Turney CSM, Wilmshurst JM, Renwick R, Pahnke, K. 2010. Divergent trends in land and ocean temperature in the Southern Ocean over the past 18,000 years. Nature Geoscience 3(9):622-626.

Bellingham, PJ, Towns, DR, Cameron, EK, Davis, JJ, Wardle, DA, Wilmshurst JM, Mulder, CPH.  (2010) New Zealand island restoration: seabirds, predators, and the importance of history New Zealand Journal of Ecology 34 (1): 115-136.

Forsyth, DM, Wilmshurst JM, Allen RB and Coomes DA. (2010) Impacts of introduced deer and extinct moa on New Zealand ecosystems New Zealand Journal of Ecology 34 (1): 48–65.

McWethy DB, Whitlock C, Wilmshurst JM, McGlone MS, Li X. (2009). Rapid deforestation of South Island, New Zealand by early Polynesian fires. The Holocene 19, 883–897.

Prebble M, Wilmshurst JM. (2009). Detecting the initial impact of humans and introduced species on island environments in Remote Oceania using palaeoecology.  Biological Invasions 11:1529-1556.  DOI 10.1007/s10530-008-9405-0

Wilmshurst JM, Anderson AJ, Higham TFG, Worthy TH. 2008. Dating the late prehistoric dispersal of Polynesians to New Zealand using the commensal Pacific rat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105 (22) 7676–7680.

Power, M.J et alWilmshurst, J.M…. (83 authors) 2008. Changes in fire regimes since the Last Glacial Maximum: an assessment based on a global synthesis and analysis of charcoal data. Climate Dynamics 30: 887–907.

Alloway, B. V., Lowe, D. J., Barrell, D. J. A., Newnham, R. M., Almond, P. C., Augustinus, P. C., Bertler, N. A. N., Carter, L., Litchfield, N. J., McGlone, M. S., Shulmeister, J., Vandergoes, M. J., Williams, P. W. and members, N.-I. 2007. Towards a climate event stratigraphy for New Zealand over the past 30 000 years (NZ-INTIMATE project). Journal of Quaternary Science 22, 9-35.

Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S., Leathwick, J.R., Newnham, R.M. 2007. A pre-deforestation pollen-climate calibration model for New Zealand and quantitative temperature reconstructions for the past 18,000 yrs B.P. Journal of Quaternary Science 22, 535–547. ( DOI: 10.1002/jqs.1135.

Turney C.S.M., Roberts RG,  de Jonge N, Prior C, Wilmshurst  JM, McGlone MS, Cooper J. 2007 Redating the advance of the New Zealand Franz Josef Glacier during the Last Termination: evidence for asynchronous climate change. Journal of Quaternary Science Review 26, 3037–3042.

McGlone, M.S., Wilmshurst, J.M., Meurk, C.D. 2007. Climate, fire, farming and the recent vegetation history of subantarctic Campbell Island. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 98, 71–84.

Wilmshurst J.M. 2007. Human impacts in New Zealand. Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

Turney, C.S.M. Kershaw, A.P. Lowe, J.J. van der Kaars, S., Johnston, R., Rule, S. Moss, P.,  Radke, L., Tibby, J., McGlone, M.S. Wilmshurst, J.M., Vandergoes, M.J, Fitzsimons, S.J, Bryant, C., James, S., Branch, N.P., Cowley, J., Kalin, R.M., Ogle, N., Jacobsen, G., Fifield, L.K. 2006. Climatic variability in the southwest Pacific during the Last Termination (20-10 ka BP). Quaternary Science Reviews 25: 886-903.

McGlone MS, Wilmshurst JM, Leach, H.M. 2005. An ecological and historical review of bracken (Pteridium esculentum) in New Zealand, and its cultural significance. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 29(2): 165-184.

Bestic KL, Duncan, RP. McGlone, MS. Wilmshurst JM and Meurk CD. 2005. Population age structure and recent Dracophyllum spread on subantarctic Campbell Island. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 29(2): 291-297.

Wilmshurst JM & McGlone  MS. 2005. Corroded pollen and spores as indicators of changing lake sediment sources and catchment disturbance. Journal of Paleolimnology 34: 503–517,

Wilmshurst JM & McGlone MS. 2005. Origin of pollen and spores in surface lake sediments: comparison of modern palynomorph assemblages in moss cushions, surface soils and surface lake sediments. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 136: 1–15.

Wilmshurst JM & Higham TFG. 2004. Using rat gnawed seeds to independently date the arrival of Pacific rats and humans to New Zealand. The Holocene 14 (6) 801–806.

Wilmshurst, J.M., Higham T.F.G., Allen, H., Johns, D., Phillips, C. (2004) Early Maori settlement impacts in northern coastal Taranaki, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 28 (2) 1–13.

McGlone, M.S., Turney, C.S.M., Wilmshurst, J.M. 2004. Late Glacial and Holocene vegetation and climatic history of the Cass Basin, central South Island, New Zealand. Quaternary Research 62:267–279.

Wilmshurst, J.M., Bestic, K.L., Meurk, C.D., McGlone, M.S. 2004. Recent spread of Dracophyllum scrub on subantarctic Campbell Island, New Zealand: climatic or anthropogenic origins? Journal of Biogeography 31, (3) 401–413.

North, H., Wilmshurst, J.M., Burgham, S. 2004. Relationships between spectral reflectance and biophysical characteristics of degraded shrublands. International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) 3, 2054-2057.

Wilmshurst, J.M., Wiser, S.K., Charman, D. J. 2003. Reconstructing Holocene water tables using testate amoebae: differential preservation of tests and implications for the use of transfer functions. The Holocene 13 (3) 61-72.

Turney, C.S.M., McGlone, M.S., Wilmshurst, J.M. 2003. Asynchronous climate change between New Zealand and the Northern Atlantic during the last deglaciation.  Geology 31 (3) 223–226.

Moar, N.T., Wilmshurst, J.M. 2003. A key to the Cyperaceae pollen of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 41 (2) 325–334.

Wilmshurst, J.M. 2003. Establishing long-term changes in takahe winter feeding grounds in Fiordland using pollen analysis. Science in Conservation. 228. 25p.

Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone M.S., Charman, D.J. 2002. Holocene vegetation and climate change in southern New Zealand: linkages between forest composition and quantitative surface moisture reconstructions from an ombrogenous bog. Journal of Quaternary Science 17 (7) 653-666..

McGlone, M.S., Wilmshurst, J.M., Wiser, S.K.  2000.  Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation and climate change on Auckland Island, subantarctic New Zealand.  The Holocene 10(6) 719-728.

McGlone, M.S. & Wilmshurst J.M. 1999. A Holocene record of climate, vegetation change and peat bog development, east Otago, New Zealand. Journal of Quaternary Science 14, 239-254. 

McGlone, M.S. & Wilmshurst, J.M. 1999. Dating initial Maori environmental impact in New Zealand.  Quaternary International 59, 5-16.

Wilmshurst, J.M., Eden, D. and Froggatt, P. C. 1999.  Late Holocene forest disturbance in Gisborne, New Zealand: a comparison of terrestrial and marine pollen records. New Zealand Journal of Botany 37, 523-540.

Gomez B., Eden, D.N., Hicks, D.M., Trustrum, N.A., Peacock, D.H., Wilmshurst J.M. 1999.  Contribution of floodplain sequestration to the sediment budget of the Waipaoa River, New Zealand. In: Marriott, S.B., Alexander, J., Hey R.D. (eds) Floodplains: Interdisciplinary approaches.  Geological Society of London.  Special publication 163, 69‑88.

Newnham, R.M., Lowe, D.J., McGlone M.S., Wilmshurst J.M. and Higham, T.F.G.  1998. The Kaharoa Tephra as a critical datum for earliest human impact in northern New Zealand.  Journal of Archaeological Science 25, 533-544.

Wilmshurst, J.M., McGlone, M.S. and Partridge, T.R. 1997. A late Holocene history of natural disturbance in lowland podocarp/hardwood forest, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.  New Zealand Journal of Botany, 35, 79-96.

Wilmshurst, J.M. 1997. The impact of human settlement on vegetation and soil stability in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.  New Zealand Journal of Botany 35, 97-111.

Wilmshurst J.M. and McGlone, M.S. 1996. Forest disturbance in the central North Island, New Zealand following the 1850 BP Taupo eruption. The Holocene 6 (4), 399-411.

O'Sullivan, P.E., Heathwaite, A.L., Appleby, P.G., Brookfield, D., Crick, M.W., Moscrop, C., Mulder, T.B., Vernon, N.J., Wilmshurst, J.M. 1991. Palaeolimnology of Slapton Ley, Devon, UK. Hydrobiologia 214: 115-124.



  • Canterbury
    PhD Environmental Science
  • Plymouth
    BSc(Hons) Environmental Sci



  • Palaeobotany
  • Palaeoecology
  • Restoration Ecology
  • Vegetation and Climate Change
  • Vegetation history of New Zealand
  • Wetland Plant Ecology