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Experimental Native Tree Seedling Establishment for the Restoration of a Mexican Cloud Forest

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Abstract

The cloud forests of Mexico have been degraded and severely fragmented, and urgently require restoration. However, progress with restoration has been constrained by a lack of information concerning the seedling ecology of native tree species. An experiment was therefore conducted to assess the influence of different environmental factors on the seedling survival and growth of four native tree species (Fagus grandifolia var. mexicana, Carpinus caroliniana, Symplocos coccinea, and Quercus acutifolia). The seedlings were established on three sites, in two contrasting environments: inside forest fragments and on adjacent agricultural land. Highly significant differences were recorded in seedling survival and growth among sites, environments, species, and interactions between these factors. Highest survival was recorded for Quercus, which uniquely among the four species displayed the same survival percentage inside and outside the forest. Survival of the other species was higher inside the forest. In contrast, growth rates of all four species were higher outside the forest. The most important cause of mortality outside the forest was desiccation, although significant seedling predation was also observed on two sites. Results indicate that all four species can be established successfully both within forest fragments and in neighboring agricultural areas, emphasizing the scope for forest restoration. However, the interactions observed between species, sites, and environments highlight the importance of accurate species–site matching if optimum rates of growth and survival are to be obtained. Quercus spp. have great potential for establishment on agricultural sites.

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