Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Predicting mast events in indigenous forests

New Zealand is ideally placed for studying the causes and consequences of masting, as it is unusually common in the flora including in many dominant tree species.

Our overall goal is to develop a network of long-term seedfall monitoring sites that can be used to address a range of scientific and end-user questions regarding masting. This network will capitalise on a large number of existing datasets and knowledge of seeding processes in New Zealand species.

We will address the following questions:

  • What are the plant seeding cues and how do they vary among and within species?
  • Can knowledge of these cues be used to develop forward predictions of seedfall?
  • What is the scale of synchrony among individuals within and among species and how does this contribute to large-scale patterns of seedfall?
  • If seed dispersal and local seed rain are mechanisms promoting species coexistence, then has the loss of large avian seed dispersers in New Zealand affected forest composition?
  • Is synchrony among species adaptive?
  • How will global climate change influence seed production and synchrony among individuals?
Our network of seedfall monitoring sites will help to fill some of the 'gaps' in our knowledge of seeding. In particular, we will contribute knowledge on seedfall patterns in conifer-dominated forests in the central North Island. Spatially explicit analyses of seedfall datasets will enable us to determine the cues for masting among species and among individuals within species. Our vision for these data is that they can be used to forecast seedfall events at least 2 years before they occur, such that conservation management responses to rodent population increases can be timely and more effective. A more focused effort at key sites may help protect vulnerable bird and invertebrate species from predation.


  • Allen RB, Mason NWH, Richardson SJ, Platt KH 2012. Synchronicity, periodicity and bimodality in inter-annual tree seed production along an elevation gradient. Oikos 121(3): 367-376. <Go to ISI>://WOS:000300877100006
  • Richardson SJ, Allen RB, Whitehead D, Carswell FE, Ruscoe WA, Platt KH 2005. Climate and net carbon availability determine temporal patterns of seed production by Nothofagus. Ecology 86(4): 972-981.
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