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Palaeo-environment and human impact in modifying vegetation at Mt St John, Auckland Isthmus, New Zealand

by admin last modified 2005-10-01 03:42 AM

Horrocks M, Nichol SL, D’Costa DM, Shane PA, Prior C. 2005. New Zealand Journal of Botany 43, 211-221.


A 2.34 m sediment profile from the base of the crater of Mt St John volcano (a small basaltic cone on Auckland Isthmus) provides a partial environmental record of the Late Quaternary. The record highlights potential age control problems with sediment cores taken directly from archaeological sites. Two distal tephras were recorded: 9.5 ka Rotoma and 7 ka Tuhua. A date of 16 309 ± 90 14C yr BP from the basal scoria of the profile provides a minimum date for the eruption of Mt St John.

Pollen was present only in the upper 0.33 m of the profile, in a layer of peat and soil which caps highly weathered silts and clays eroded from the crater walls. In early Polynesian times (most likely after c. 800 14C yr B.P.), vegetation of the crater swamp was dominated by Cyperaceae sedges and Paesia ground fern. Dacrycarpus trees were also present. Podocarp-hardwood forest, dominated by Metrosideros, grew on the rim and inner slopes of the crater. Elaeocarpus, Griselinia, and Cyathea were also present. A decline in Dacrycarpus pollen and an accelerated erosion rate mark Polynesian forest clearance within the crater. Typha became a major component of the swamp vegetation during the Late Polynesian-European era.


Palynology, tephra, Late Quaternary, Mt St John, Auckland.

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