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Environment and History

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Environment and History

The Banks Peninsula Forests and Akaroa Cocksfoot:Explaining a New Zealand Forest Transition

Vaughan Wood and Eric Pawson

Environment and History 14(2008): 449-68. doi: 10.3197/096734008X368394

This paper traces the dynamic of a rapid transition from forest to grass on Banks Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand, from 1850 to 1900, as well as the subsequent partial transition back towards forest. At an early stage a symbiotic relationship emerged between forest clearance and pasture cropping for cocksfoot seed, wherein the success of the conversion in one locality aided and abetted similar conversions elsewhere. For fifty years, 'the seed that followed the sawmill' was the basis for an international trade in cocksfoot, turning a peripheral area into a key production hearth in the global grass seed trade. The local and international conditions that led to the demise of the industry after the First World War are explored, to assess why the cocksfoot industry proved little more sustainable than the Peninsula's timber industry had been. In turn, it made way for the regeneration of the forest which is increasingly evident today.

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