In mid-January, an accidental fire burnt some hundreds of hectares of Mt Cook station on the upper eastern margins of L. Pukaki. Included in the burn were large areas of wildings, both small scattered trees and larger mature stands. As one objective of the SFF Wilding Project is to monitor vegetation successions associated with wilding control, the Mt Cook fire presented an unexpected opportunity to follow vegetation recovery following a burn. Questions arise, such as - will a new crop of wildings be the first back into the site or will introduced grasses dominate (as is often the case); how will native species fare; and what will be the impact of browsing (the fire was in an area managed for trophy hunting)? To this end, SFF wilding project researchers, Thomas Paul, Dave Henley and Nick Ledgard visited the burnt area on January 31, and later returned to set up small trials to monitor the vegetation recovery.
On July 17, seed sowing treatments were installed, which involved native species (mainly matagouri), Corsican pine and a grass/legume pasture mix. The purpose is to test wheather pines and natives can establish under a recently burnt wilding stand, and how they are affected by grass competition - as grasses are often the firest to invade such sites. In addition, deer fencing and bird netting was used to determine the effect of browsing by wild animals (the trial is within a trophy hunting area) and rabbits, hares and possums.