• Cordyline australis;
  • Leptospermum scoparium;
  • regeneration;
  • seedling establishment;
  • soil compaction

Abstract  Soil compaction can affect seedling root development by decreasing oxygen availability and increasing soil strength. However, little quantitative information is available on the compaction tolerances of non-crop native species. We investigated the effects of soil compaction on establishment and development of two New Zealand native species commonly used in restoration programmes; Cordyline australis (Agavaceae) (cabbage tree) a fleshy rooted species, and Leptospermum scoparium (Myrtaceae) (manuka) a very finely rooted species. Seedlings were grown in a range of soil compaction levels in growth cabinet experiments. Low levels of soil compaction (0.6 MPa) reduced both the number and speed of C. australis seedlings penetrating the soil surface. In contrast, L. scoparium seedlings showed improved establishment at an intermediate compaction level. Root and shoot growth of both species decreased with increasing soil strength, with L. scoparium seedlings tolerating higher soil strengths than did C. australis. Despite these results, soil strength accounted for only a small amount of variation in root length (R2 < 0.25), due to greater variability in growth at low soil strengths. Soil strengths of 0.6 MPa are likely to pose a barrier to C. australis regeneration. This is consistent with adaptation to organic and/or soft, waterlogged soils. Active intervention may be necessary to establish C. australis from seed on many sites previously in farmland.