Restoring Caribbean Dry Forests: Evaluation of Tree Propagation Techniques

Authors

  • Gary J. Ray,

    1. Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1007 WARF Building, 610 Walnut Street, Madison, WI 53705, U.S.A. Current address: Center for Plant Conservation–Hawaiian Flora, Bishop Museum, P.O. Box 19000A, Honolulu, HI 96817, U.S.A.
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  • Becky J. Brown

    1. Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Forestry, 120 Russell Labs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A.
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Abstract

Survival and height growth of tree seedlings and rooted cuttings introduced into artificially shaded and unshaded plots in a degraded dry forest were measured at intervals for nine months. Ten tree species were selected to represent a range of ecological characteristics of the dry–forest plant community on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Of three propagule types – seeds, seedlings, and rooted cuttings – introduced to field plots, seedlings survived best (52%) over the initial nine-month period. Cuttings of six species rooted successfully in a shadehouse, but only two of these species survived the nine–month field experiment. Seed germination was low, under 11% for eight of ten species tested, and four species did not germinate. Subsequent mortality of seedling recruits was moderately high. Plumeria alba was the only species for which seedling height growth was not significantly greater than cutting height growth. Shading treatment (25% of full sun) significantly increased seedling survivorship (p= 0.03) but suppressed growth slightly for some species. Shading enhanced survival of seedlings produced from broadcast seeds, but not seed germination. Mortality occurred during dry periods, apparently from drought stress. Results suggest (1) that seedling introductions are the preferred propagule type (over seeding or rooted cuttings) for ecological restoration of degraded tropical dry forests, and (2) that some level of shading is required to increase the survivorship of many dry-forest species or to avert complete mortality of some species. This study suggests that early secondary dry forest may be best restored by underplanting within the existing vegetation. Sufficient shading suitable for growth of native dry-forest trees may be attained using a nurse crop of fast-growing leguminous trees.

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