• disturbance;
  • girdling;
  • Hawai’i;
  • invader;
  • leaf litter;
  • restoration;
  • tropical forest


Fire tree (Morella faya) has invaded extensive areas of wet and mesic forest on the Island of Hawai’i, forming nearly monospecific stands. Our objective was to identify a method of controlling M. faya, which would allow native plants to establish while minimizing establishment by invasive plants. Treatments (logging all trees, trees left standing but girdled, and incremental girdling over 20 months) were selected to kill M. faya stands at different rates, thereby creating different conditions for species establishment. Leaf litter was either removed or left in place; seeds and seedlings of three native pioneer species, three native forest species, and three alien invasive species were then added to determine their ability to establish. Native pioneer species established best in the log and girdle treatments, whereas seedling emergence of native forest species was higher in the girdle and incremental girdle treatments. Seedlings of invasive species emerged faster than the natives, but each of them responded differently to the stand treatments. Leaf litter reduced seedling emergence for all species, with small-seeded species (<1 mg/seed) affected most under low light conditions. No single method eliminated all invaders, but girdling of M. faya provided suitable conditions for most native species. If combined with selective removal of the most disruptive alien species and native seed additions, girdling could be an effective general strategy for restoring native forests that have been overwhelmed by woody invaders.