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Keywords:

  • cottonwood;
  • forest restoration;
  • supplemental planting;
  • sycamore;
  • vertical structure

Abstract

Despite the diversity of trees in bottomland forests, restoration on bottomland sites is often initiated by planting only a few species of slow-growing, hard mast–producing trees. Although successful at establishing trees, these young forests are slow to develop vertical structure, which is a key predictor of forest bird colonization. Furthermore, when natural seed sources are few, restored sites may be depauperate in woody species. To increase richness of woody species, maximum tree height, and total stem density, I supplemented traditional plantings on each of 40 bottomland restoration sites by planting 96 Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) in eight clusters of 12 trees. First-year survival of cottonwood stem cuttings (25%) and sycamore seedlings (47%) was poor, but survival increased when afforded protection from competition with weeds. After five growing seasons, 165 of these 320 supplemental tree clusters had at least one surviving tree. Vegetation surrounding surviving clusters of supplemental trees harbored a greater number of woody species, increased stem density, and greater maximum tree height than was found on paired restoration sites without supplemental trees. These increases were primarily accounted for by the supplemental trees.