Flora

As the saying goes people canĀ“t see the trees for the forest. Since I first time visited New Zealand my view of New Zealand's original rainforest evolved.

At first I was amazed by its beauty and its prehistoric - Jurassic appearance. Shortly after I found that there was something wrong - the forest was silent. Than I have learned about the introduction of predators, and the devastating effects they have had on the native birds, and their habitat.
All right, but the forest itself still looks healthy. Over the years I have been slowly learning what kind of trees, shrubs and flowers I can see, to be able to distinguish the different species. Then I met a man who told me that the forest floor and understorey has been dramatically changed by browsing mammals and that the "healthy" rainforest is in reality quite sick.
Meantime I bought in a book-sale a great book 'Man Against Nature' by R.M.Lockley and that answered a couple of my questions. I have been lucky enough to be volunteering in the Murchison Mountains where, thanks to continued control of mammals - rats, stoats, deer and possums, I could experience a quite different forest to the one in nearby Kepler Mountains. I could observe that broadleaf and rata are prolific in places , even though they had been browsed. I have recognised what is the difference between those two forests: the forest floor
of Kepler Mountains is covered with nice fern, but there are no broadleaf, no rata, or fuchsia as they have been eaten by deer and possu ms. It took me couple of years to recognise it, and I had to be shown. The proof is there, when deer are hungry they will eat young beech tree, not to mention even pepper tree. No wonder that in some Fiordland localities are only old mature trees with very few young ones left alive.

I am part time tour guide and therefore I am supposed to be able to explain all of the consequences of the introduction of predators and pest plants to my European guests so they get the full New Zealand experience. But to be honest it should be firstly explained to us Kiwi as the majority of us have the same view that I had when I first came to New Zealand - the view of great rainforest that is virgin and self-sustaining. Neither is true - since the end of the 19th century it was widely transformed by browsing mammals and many species were wiped out. When I can visit Murchison Mountains or Pomona Island I can see the difference - what it is supposed to be like- a hint of what it used to be.
To prove that we are 100% Pure and Clean green New Zealand we should return to the forest, draw up an inventory of what is left and then start seriously to work towards restoration. Tourism is mostly dependent on the health of our indigenous nature, so I reckon that an active involvement of tourism businesses in the conservation will be much appreciated.

I am pleased that all over New Zealand quite a few small community initiatives, such Pomona Island Trust and Coal Island here in Fiordland, are committed to bringing nature back to us.

Martin Sliva, 2009



Who would like to write an article about Fiordland flora and its species?

Maori onion