In search of Arcadia?

Cole_Thomas_The_Course_of_Empire_The_Arcadian_or_Pastoral_State_1836

Thomas Cole’s The Arcadian or Pastoral State, 1834

A series of articles were recently published on Environment and Nature in New Zealand, all drawn from essays written between 1989 and 2000 by students in history at the University of Otago. 

A prominent theme in the essays covering the colonial period is the disconnect between the expectations of immigrants and the reality of what they found, particularly in respect to the environment. Continue reading

Vanishing forests: pre-European transformation of the South Island

When we encounter the extensive tussocklands of the eastern South Island [see below right], it is hard to imagine any other landscape in that place – so much a part of the “natural” New Zealand landscape have they become. Yet, as explored in a previous post What is natural? The tussocklands of Lindis Pass, this is in fact a human-induced landscape; the tussocklands have replaced podocarp and beech forest [see left] that once covered the South Island. However, this occurred long before any written history was established, and this environmental history has had to be pieced together through painstaking paleoenvironmental research.

New ground-breaking research, undertaken by an team of both New Zealand and international scientists, has determined how, to what extent, and over what time-frame large tracts of South Island forest were destroyed. Continue reading

The attack of the killer bunny

Anyone with children under five will probably be cognisant of the fact that while rabbits can be very nice, they can also be very bad –  Bunnytown’s “Little Bad Bunny” is undeniable evidence of this fact.

Also providing ample evidence that rabbits in the wrong place at the wrong time can have a devastating impact on the environment, the economy and peoples’ livelihoods is the rabbit’s history in New Zealand.  Its history here began in the 1830s; the first certain record of its introduction dating to 1838. Continue reading

What is natural? – the tussocklands of Otago

The dramatic tussock-lands of Lindis Pass are one the iconic landscapes of the South Island, and much admired by the traveler on their way from Canterbury to Queenstown or beyond. So iconic has this landscape become, it is hard to believe that while the tussock vegetation is “indigenous”, it is not “natural”. Rather, it is a human-induced landscape.

Lindis Pass is part of an extensive “dryland zone” which extends along much of the eastern part of the South Island [see map below right]. Continue reading