Human impact throws tree seeding out of sync – new study
Human impacts on the environment are changing many biological responses, with effects on rare species and human health, but predicting such responses is complicated, according to a new paper by a University of Canterbury ecologist.
Aotearoa-New Zealand flax/harakeke (Phormium tenax) flowering heavily. Some years these plants have no flowers at all, others they have lots.
Photo credit: Dave Kelly
In his research paper published today [22 June UK time], University of Canterbury (UC) scientist Professor Dave Kelly clarifies how mast seeding plants – those which produce occasional widespread seed crops – including southern beech forests throughout Aotearoa-New Zealand’s South Island, respond to various environmental factors.
Professor Kelly’s new paper shows that nutrients have a very limited and specific role, and cannot cause masting on their own. This work clarifies which factors have to be considered when predicting and managing mast seeding, including by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in New Zealand.
“Better predictions of mast seeding events have really helped DOC protect native birds and this new work lets us refine even further what factors could be having an influence, and how they act,” Professor Kelly says
It has long been known that the main drivers of mast seeding are seed predators and temperature cues, Professor Kelly says.