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Geomorphic and sedimentary evidence of human impact on the New Zealand coastal landscape

by admin last modified 2008-03-25 01:47 PM

Nichol SL, Augustinus PC, Gregory MR, Creese R, Horrocks M. 2000. Physical Geography, Special Issue, Human Impacts and Geomorphology 21, 109-132.


The coastal landscape of New Zealand has been heavily utilised by humans for the last 600-800 years, first by Polynesian settlers who disturbed native forests through burning and later by Europeans who continued forest burning and introduced logging and grazing in the mid-19th century. Whangape and its catchment in Northland, North Island is an example of a heavily used coastal landscape where the impacts of human use are clearly evident on the deforested and eroding slopes of the catchment, and in the harbour where siltation is contributing to expansion of mangrove forests and a deterioration in the quality and quantity of seafood stocks. This paper documents the physical condition of Whangape Harbour and its catchment and uses sedimentological data (grain size, magnetic susceptibility, pollen) to establish links between sediment sources, pathways and sinks.

Radiocarbon dating of in situ estuarine shells suggests sedimentation rates in the estuary have increased by an order of magnitude during the period of human occupation. We argue that human impact on Whangape Harbour has caused an acceleration of the natural process of estuary infilling, but has not controlled the type of geomorphic processes operating in the system.


Estuary, erosion, sedimentation, Maori.

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