Once upon a time the Whakatipu was home to a wide variety of native ecosystems including wetlands, greyshrublands, dryland woodlands, temperate rainforest and alpine shrubland.
We know this from piecing together information from:
- buried pollen, charcoal, preserved seeds and leaves
- moa and other bird bones, gizzard stones, coprolites (preserved faeces have evidence of twigs, leaf cuticles and seeds)
- climate data from the past and soils matched with present knowledge of specific plant growth requirements
- carbon dating
- early accounts and records
- present remnants
Hills and Mountain Slopes
The hills and mountain slopes were predominantly beech forest with a shrubby upper edge and tall snow tussock grassland leading into herbfields above. Numerous mountain totara logs can still be found across the lower slopes of the Remarkables and small remnants of mountain beech can be seen right up to the original line.
On the lakeshore there was much greater diversity including beech forest and many other tree and shrub species, grasses, ferns, mosses, lichen and fungi and herbs along with prolific birdlife, insects, lizards and probably bats.
On the Basin floor there was probably a mosaic of grassland on shallow soils with numerous wetlands in hollows, grey shrubland and associated herbs and grasses predominating with low forest and some beech in sheltered gullies, on scarps and around the larger water bodies.
Scarps and Bluffs
On the scarps and bluffs were kowhai, mountain totara, tree daisies, coprosmas and other shrubs and small trees such as broadleaf, mapou and mountain toatoa.