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Forest Vines to Snow Tussocks: The Story of New Zealand Plants

Bog Forest

Bog Forest

Bogs, although similar to swamps in that they are waterlogged, are much less fertile and much more acid, and the slow breakdown of plant remains which results from these conditions leads to the build up of peat, often with peat moss (Sphagnum) playing a prominent role. The greater fertility of swamps is due to the fact that most of their water content comes either from streams or from ponds or lakes fed by streams. The latter contain minerals dissolved from the rocks and soils through which they pass and in times of flood they may also carry quantities of fertile silt. Bogs on the other hand are found mostly in high rainfall areas and most of their water comes as rain, which is devoid of nutrients. Their other characteristics follow from this.

Raised bogs have convex surfaces and consequent outward drainage. They are best developed in the Waikato and parts of Southland and they may become established on former swamps.

In the North Island forested bogs are largely restricted to middle altitudes on the central volcanic plateau near to Mt. Ruapehu. In the South Island they are common on the lowlands of the wet western side and also in Southland and Stewart Island.

Bog forest is low in stature, up to 15 m, and the usual dominant tree is silver pine (Lagarostrobos colensoi)82 intermixed with small trees of the page break
Figure 68 (opposite) Aerial view of the transition from pakihi bog through silver pine (Lagarostrobos colensoi) dominated forest to rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) dominated forest on better drained terrain. South Westland.Photo: J. H. Johns.

Figure 68 (opposite) Aerial view of the transition from pakihi bog through silver pine (Lagarostrobos colensoi) dominated forest to rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) dominated forest on better drained terrain. South Westland.
Photo: J. H. Johns.

page 120mountain celery pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius var. alpinus)Neomyrtus pedunculata may be prominent in the subcanopy and large tussocks of Astelia fragrans may be abundant on the forest floor. The progression from bog to bog forest has been studied in South Westland where islandlike patches of bog, known locally as pakihi, are scattered in forest on the lowland gravel plain. The pakihi vegetation is dominated by the rush-like Empodisma minus with the sedge Baumea teretifolia, the umbrella fern, Gleichenia circinata and various other small herbs. Stunted shrubs of manuka and Dracophyllum longifolium axe scattered throughout. In the gradation from bog to forest there is firstly a zone of manuka of small tree size under which silver pine in particular establishes. In the next zone, silver pine has formed a canopy above the manuka. Silver pine is itself overtopped by rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) in the next zone (Fig. 68).

As with kahikatea swamp forest, it seems probable that as the soil level builds up and soil moisture declines sufficiently, the progression ultimately leads to the general conifer broadleaf forest of the region. Any trend towards increased regional rainfall would, of course, slow or even reverse such a progression.

Mark and Smith83 concluded that the pakihi in their south Westland study area had never previously supported forest, but Rigg,84 who studied pakihis in north Westland, suggested, on the evidence of buried logs, that forests (probably dominated by rimu) did formerly occupy such terrain and that there was possibly a succession of such forests. The soil of these pakihis is highly leached and infertile with a well developed iron pan, which also suggests a previous forest which provided an acid litter. Rigg proposes, as one possibility, that the podocarp forests would have died out as a result of the reduced soil fertility and, presumably, the impeded drainage they themselves induced. Between successive forests a regeneration sequence similar to that described for South Westland would have taken place. This hypothesised forest-bog-forest cycle is similar to the forest/swamp/forest cycle proposed for some kauri localities.

As with the gumlands of Northland, many of the pakihis of Westland have been repeatedly burnt in both Maori and European times.