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The Effect of Restoration Treatment Soils and Parent Tree on Tropical Forest Tree Seedling Growth

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DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2015.52015    3,368 Downloads   3,943 Views   Citations


Restoration treatments can impact the growth and development of tree seedlings; however, it is often difficult to discern whether responses are driven by changes in microclimate, biotic interactions, or soil properties. To isolate for the latter, we quantified the growth response of four species [Ocotea puberula (Lauraceae); Otoba novogranatensis (Myristicaceae); Pseudolmedia mollis (Moraceae); Senna papillosa (Fabaceae)] grown under similar shade-house conditions in soils collected from 6 - 7 year old active (four species plantation) and passive restoration plots (natural recovery), and nearby reference forest sites in Costa Rica. We also evaluated the role of parent tree by collecting individuals from five mother trees. We measured height, above- and below-ground biomass, and determined root: shoot ratios (RSR). Species differed markedly in their responses. Ocotea, and to a lesser extent Pseudolmedia, were largely driven by parent tree. In contrast, Senna showed a strong soil response for all variables with more growth in active than passive restoration soils; reference forest seedlings were typically intermediate. An interaction suggested that some genotypes are more responsive to different soil properties than others. Otoba had higher soil-driven RSR in both restoration treatments. Surprisingly most soil nutrients, including %N, were similar or significantly lower in active restoration soils, suggesting that seedlings are responding to differences in soil microbial communities or more labile nutrients (e.g., NH4+ and NO3-). Active restoration appears to facilitate the growth of other species by improving certain soil properties. Additionally, genotypes are an important driver of seedling vigor and some species may be more responsive to subtle differences in soil properties than others.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Zahawi, R. , Eckert, C. , Chaves-Fallas, J. , Schwanitz, L. , Rosales, J. and Holl, K. (2015) The Effect of Restoration Treatment Soils and Parent Tree on Tropical Forest Tree Seedling Growth. Open Journal of Forestry, 5, 154-161. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2015.52015.


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