Factors Limiting the Survival of Native Tree Seedlings Used in Conservation Efforts at the Edges of Forest Fragments in Upland Madagascar


Address correspondence to E. Gunilla A. Olsson, email gunilla.olsson@bio.ntnu.no


We tested four reforestation techniques in tropical forest fragments that were damaged by fire in upland Madagascar. We conducted a full-factorial experiment on the survival of transplanted seedlings of five native tree species in grassland plots adjacent to the forest fragments in the Ambohitantely Forest Reserve. The species studied were Dodonaea madagascariensis, Filicium decipiens, Olea lancea, Podocarpus madagascariensis, and Rhus taratana. A total of 480 seedlings were planted; 207 survived the 15 months of the experiment. The factors examined were distance of the reforestation plots from the forest, mixing of forest soil into the plots, application of chemical fertilizers, experimental shading of plots, and the cover of naturally establishing shrubs. Both increasing the distance of plots from the forest edge and adding chemical fertilizers significantly reduced the survival of all seedlings. The surprising negative effects of fertilization may be partly due to increased competition from naturally establishing shrubs that are adapted to exploit high nitrogen levels. Mixing soil from the forest areas into the plots did not change seedling survival. Shading reduced the survival of D. madagascariensis seedlings and did not increase the survival of any species. These findings suggest that the success of reforestation projects can be increased by planting seedlings close to the existing forest fragments. Reforestation of similar tropical forests is likely to be more successful if efforts are focused on expanding the size of existing fragments of tropical forest, rather than on establishing new fragments in grassland openings.