Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Restoring dryland biodiversity through woody dominance

Dryland environments contain some of the most transformed, least protected and most threatened native ecosystems and species in New Zealand. A significant amount (>70%) of indigenous habitat has been lost, and only 1.9% of the zone is now legally protected.

Consequently, drylands contain an exceptionally high proportion of New Zealand's most threatened species. Although strongly modified from their original states, remaining dryland communities and species are of major significance, representing all that remains of a unique and diverse ecological zone and its potential for restoration.

In this research programme, we will aim at building an understanding of the ecology of dryland woody plant species (present distributions, succession pathways and rates, traits, and factors that control and limit their spread). We will apply this knowledge to develop and test low-input methods for facilitating indigenous woody plant succession in the field. The bird, lizard, invertebrate, and plant biodiversity associated with woody communities across the dryland zone will be surveyed and quantified, so that we can better understand benefits and drawbacks of woody succession, and predict some of the changes that will occur in indigenous communities as succession proceeds. Researchers will also work with partner agencies, communities and private landowners to improve understanding, protection and conservation management of dryland biodiversity.


  • Glen A, Byrom A, Pech R, Yockney I 2011. Insights into the ecology of possums on Molesworth’s drylands. Protect Autumn 2011: 13.
  • Walker S, Cieraad E, Monks A, Burrows L, Wood J, Price R, Rogers G, Lee W 2009. Long-term dynamics and rehabilitation of woody ecosystems in dryland South Island , New Zealand. In: Hobbs RJ, Suding KN ed. New models for ecosystem dynamics and restoration. Washington D.C., Island Press. Pp. 99-111.
  • Walker S, King N, Monks A, Williams S, Burrows L, Cieraad E, Meurk C, Overton JM, Price R, Smale M 2009. Secondary woody vegetation patterns in New Zealand's South Island dryland zone. New Zealand journal of botany 47(4): 367-393.
  • Rogers G, Walker S, Lee B 2005. The role of disturbance in dryland New Zealand: Past and present. Science for Conservation. 1-106 p.
  • Walker S, Wilson JB, Lee WG 2005. Does fluctuating resource availability increase invasibility? Evidence from field experiments in New Zealand short tussock grassland. Biological invasions 7(2): 195-211.
  • Walker S, Lee B, Rogers G 2003. Restoring indigenous biodiversity in the eastern South Island rainshadow zone. Journal / Canterbury Botanical Society 37: 48-62.
  • Walker S, Lee WG, Rogers GM 2003. Post-pastoral succession in intermontane valleys and basins of eastern South Island, New Zealand. Science for conservation. 227. Wellington, Department of Conservation. -75 p.
  • Walker S, Lee WG, Rogers GM 2003. The woody vegetation of Central Otago, New Zealand : its present and past distribution and future restoration needs. Science for conservation. 226. Wellington, Department of Conservation. -99 p.
  • Walker S, Wilson JB, Lee WG 2003. Recovery of short tussock and woody species guilds in ungrazed Festuca novae-zelandiae short tussock grassland with fertiliser or irrigation. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 27(2): 179-189.
  • Rogers G, Walker S, Tubbs M, Henderson J 2002/12. Ecology and conservation status of three "spring annual" herbs in dryland ecosystems of New Zealand. New Zealand journal of botany 40(4): 649-669.
  • Meurk CD, Walker S, Gibson RS, Espie P 2002. Changes in vegetation states in grazed and ungrazed Mackenzie Basin grasslands, New Zealand, 1990-2000. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 26(2): 95-106.
  • Walker S, Lee WG 2002. Alluvial grasslands of Canterbury and Marlborough, eastern South Island, New Zealand : vegetation patterns and long-term change. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 32(1): 113-147.
  • Walker S 2000. Post-pastoral changes in composition and guilds in a semi-arid conservation area, Central Otago, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 24(2): 123-137.
  • Walker S, Lee WG 2000. Alluvial grasslands in south-eastern New Zealand : vegetation patterns, long-term and post-pastoral change. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30(1): 72-103.
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