Fujifilm, thank you for your time.
Some background: fifty plus years in the New Zealand mountains. In the early ones I was a mountain guide, and heliski guide in the winters. This flowed on into geophysics field work in NZ and Antarctica. And then spasmodic volunteer work for NZ’s Dept. of Conservation. And in the last several years contract field work for them, and then two years in a governance role. Being a voice for the public and our native birds.
In New Zealand alpine grasses are often referred to as snowgrass.
Significant areas, both large and medium in size, are in steady decline. Historical records note that they were once at least waist high. Not only in Mackenzie Basin, but also Otago and Southland. All typical New Zealand high country sub alpine environments.
The main reasons have been the Europeanisation of the landscape. Usually to further the goals of agriculture. Coupled with the introduction of rabbits many decades ago. Large rabbit numbers depleted ground cover. And then an invasive weed called hawkweed (Hieracium lepidulum) took over.
Which leaves bare ground! Then, with the help of winter “frost heave”, soil blows away in the strong winds New Zealand is renown for. Thus habitat for what is a very robust plant, is disappearing. As the decades go by there is a deficit.
NZ Heritage Landscapes are disappearing!
All photos by the applicant Donald Lousley, Wanaka, New Zealand. Thanks to Victoria Uni. website for help with the words. And to Soil Conservator Alistair Shearer, contractor to Environment Canterbury; and Rob Phillips SEO (recently retired) of Environment Southland for support/ideas.
The larger alpine tussock grasses, or ‘snow grasses’ as they are called, are frequently a metre high and sometimes as wide. Under good conditions they may reach head height at up to 2 m. Growth is slow and some of the larger specimens are estimated to be several centuries old
This, now protected, Oteake Conservation Area shows historical degradation. Due to extremes of climate though, regeneration will not be quick. If at all.
The same area in winter
A healthy spot
The colour of a snow tussock landscape is generally not green, but, depending on the species, ranges from a pale straw colour through shades of brown to a distinctly reddish shade. The lack of greenness results partly from the regular dying back of the leaves from the tips and partly to the presence of masking pigments.
Variety in a harsh environment
An important part of the sub-alpine flora is a wide diversity of herbaceous plant species. And also in some instances beech trees.
Sunset and wind at higher altitude
The more or less hemispherical form of many of the snow tussocks confers on the mountain slopes a very distinctive and attractive texture reminiscent of that of cirrus clouds or, when the tussocks are tossed by the wind, waves at sea.
Known as Turtle
Slow and able this is the applicant’s preferred means of accommodation while gathering images.