BEECH FOREST ECOSYSTEMS
This essay will look at beech forest ecosystems, describing the main characteristics, along with pre-human and current distribution of beech forests. Vegetation structure and native fauna associated with the ecosystem will be looked at with examples of species given. Environmental effects such as altitude, latitude, rainfall and soil drainage, and how they can affect beech forests will be investigated. Anthropogenic effects will also be looked at, explaining how human activity can affect ecological processes and the composition of plant and animal species within the beech forest ecosystem. DISCUSSION
New Zealand beeches belong to the genus Nothofagus or ‘Southern Beeches’, and consist of three species: red, silver and hard beech, and two varieties: black and mountain beech (Wardle, 1984). Nothofagus trees occur as elements of rainforest and usually grow on harsher sites than most other rainforest trees. Hard and black beeches are known as the lowland beeches, and occupy thin soils of ridge crests in regions where low-land conifer-broadleaf forest predominates. The montane beeches – red, silver and mountain, grow at colder altitudes and latitudes (Dawson & Lucas, 2000). Prior to human settlement, forest covered much of New Zealand. By the time European settlement took place, New Zealand’s indigenous forest had been reduced to half its original size due to clearance for settlement and farming (Dawson & Lucas, 1993). Beech species would have been a component in the forests of the central and eastern south Island and the south-eastern North Island where forest destruction was most complete. However, beech forests are the largest remaining indigenous forest with many of them spared being burnt or cut down because the land they grow on is not generally regarded as the best for agriculture or building (Wardle, 1984). Today, beech forests are common in the South Island, but also grow in the North Island at higher...
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