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Early growth of environmental plantings in relation to site and management factors



In extensively cleared areas of temperate Australia, large-scale mixed-species environmental revegetation is often recommended to address land and water degradation in rural landscapes. Although survival and growth are central to the success of revegetation, there is very limited information on this aspect of practice. We investigated how site and management practices influence early growth by surveying 29 planted or direct-seeded sites, covering ages from 3–6 years, in north central Victoria, Australia. We measured heights and crown widths of trees and shrubs at each site and estimated average growth over time at the scale of: (i) individual trees or shrubs (mean height increment) and (ii) stand (vegetation cover increment and a ‘height integral’ increment variable, which integrates differences in both height and stand density). Relationships between growth increment variables and site factors, including climate, site preparation and land-use history, were investigated to identify the main factors influencing early growth rates. Mean annual increment in height of individual trees was significantly higher for trees established from tubestock than those from direct seeding. Multiple linear regression models for two growth variables, cover increment and height integral increment, explained 61% and 38% of the variation, respectively, but with high uncertainty. Ploughing, pre-establishment weed control and fertiliser addition improved growth rates. Revegetation method had a significant effect on early growth; at the scale of individuals, growth rates were higher for planted tubestock than for direct seeding, while at the stand scale, growth rates were higher for direct seeding than for planted tubestock.