Vegetation structure, composition and effect of pine plantation harvesting on riparian buffers in New Zealand.
The composition and structure of vegetation within riparian buffers prior to, and immediately post-harvesting in a managed radiata pine (Pinus radiata) forest is described and compared with riparian buffers in residual adjoining native forest on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand. One hundred and twenty-one species (71% native) representing life forms from grasses to trees were recorded. The highest species richness, including both native and adventive (non-native) species, was found in riparian buffers in the post-harvest and native reference sites which had 18-25 species per site. Riparian buffers in mature pine plantations contained a mix of native species that was generally similar to, and not significantly reduced in species richness, from the reference native forest. Native species comprised 82-92% of the total cover in mature pre-harvest sites (irrespective of riparian width), and 99.8% in native reference sites. Compared with native forest the principal difference was a reduction of total cover in the upper tiers (5-12 m), and some increase in cover in the lower tiers. Adventive species in post-harvest sites comprised 16-67% of the total cover and were most frequently found in riparian areas highly disturbed by recent harvesting of the pines, particularly where riparian buffers were narrow or absent. Invasion by light-demanding adventives is expected to be temporary and most species are likely to be shaded out as the new rotation of pine trees develops. Radiata pine plantations in Whangapoua Forest can provide suitable conditions for the development of riparian buffer zones that will become dominated by native species, similar in richness and structure to neighbouring native forest.