Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

A magnified bracken spore

A magnified bracken spore

Because each plant species has unique pollen grains or spores, by examining New Zealand’s wetland deposits researchers such as Janet Wilmshurst can tell what types of plants grew in a particular area at a particular time. The coincidence of a sudden, very marked and sustained decline in pollen from trees with a sudden increase in bracken spores (a plant which colonises open ground) indicates that forests have been destroyed through deliberate burning, and that bracken has occupied the bare ground.

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Reference: D100024
Photograph by Ian Raine

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How to cite this page:

Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, 'When was New Zealand first settled? - Pollen analysis', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/3618/a-magnified-bracken-spore (accessed 15 December 2019)

Story by Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 May 2016