Polynesian plant introductions in the Southwest Pacific: initial pollen evidence from Norfolk Island
Thick organic swamp sediments, buried under land fill on Kingston Common, preserves evidence of the Norfolk Island flora and vegetation back to the middle Holocene and probably much earlier times in the Late Quaternary. These sediments provide (1) a bench mark against which the impact of humans on the flora and vegetation of a long-isolated island can be assessed and (2) a means of determining whether particular plant genera and species are introduced or native to the island. Although sediments contemporary with Polynesian occupation about 800 years ago were destroyed by European draining and cultivation of the swamp during the early nineteenth century, the pollen data indicate that New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) was introduced to Norfolk Island by Polynesians. Other putative exotics such as Ti (Cordyline), a bull-rush (Typha orientalis) and, less certain, herbs such as the sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), were part of the native flora long before the earliest recorded Polynesian settlement. Wildfires have been part of the landscape ecology of Norfolk Island since at least the middle Holocene.