Lowe, D.J. & McDaniel, P. (2008). Impacts of deforestation and burning, and the role of bracken fern, on the properties of surficial or buried soil A-horizons. In D.J. Lowe (Ed.), Guidebook for Pre-conference North Island Field Trip A1 “Ashes and Issues”, 28-30 November, 2008. Australian and New Zealand 4th Joint Soils Conference, Massey University, Palmerston North. New Zealand Society of Soil Science, Christchurch. (pp.154-158). Palmerston North, New Zealand: New Zealand Society of Soil Science.
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Bracken fern (Pteridium spp.) is an aggressive plant that commonly invades disturbed sites. Its success as an invader is attributable, in part, to its ability to produce abundant growth, both below ground in the form of rhizomes and fine roots and above ground as fronds and stems. This biomass production has been shown to affect numerous soil properties. In describing soils of the „Pumice Lands‟ (Pumice Soils or Vitrands mainly) in New Zealand, Molloy and Christie (1998) attributed black A horizons „to bracken fern, which replaced much of the forest‟. Analyses of humus and phytoliths in the A horizons of soils developed especially on Kaharoa and Taupo tephras in central North Island (buried beneath 1886 Tarawera eruptives in the Rerewhakaaitu area) showed that type-A humic acids predominated and that fernland and grassland had replaced the pre-existing forests (Birrell et al., 1971; Sase et al., 1988; Hosono et al., 1991; Sase and Hosono, 1996). Pollen, phytolith and associated studies, together with tephrochronology, have shown that human-induced deforestation by burning began in New Zealand soon after Polynesian settlers arrived (e.g. McGlone, 1989; Clarkson et al., 1992; Kondo et al., 1994; McGlone et al., 1994; Newnham et al., 1998; McGlone and Wilmshurst, 1999; Watanabe and Sakagami, 1999; see also article on Polynesian settlement by Lowe, this volume). The repeated burning resulted in the formation of extensive fernlands (McGlone et al., 2005).
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This article has been published in “Guidebook for Pre-conference North Island Field Trip A1 “Ashes and Issues”, 28-30 November, 2008”. Used with permission.