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Evaluation of Tree Seedling Mortality and Protective Strategies in Riparian Forest Restoration

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Riparian forest restoration can be severely constrained by tree seedling mortality. I evaluated the effects of tree shelters and planting density on herbivory and seedling mortality at a restoration site in the Lake Champlain Basin of Vermont. Eighteen experimental units were established along a 5th-order stream and planted with bare-root seedlings of seven species associated with northern hardwood floodplain forests. Two treatments were applied in a factorial design: shelters versus no shelters and high versus low planting density. Mortality and herbivory data were collected over three growing seasons. Survivorship declined to 56.4% after three growing seasons and varied significantly by species. Planting density, presence/absence of shelters, and their interaction had significant effects on survival, browse, or girdling intensity when tested for all species combined. Browse rates were high (44%), whereas girdling rates were low (3.4%). Both browse (P < 0.001) and girdling (P = 0.022) contributed to seedling mortality. High rates of deer browse on seedlings in shelters were due, in part, to the short height (60 cm) of the shelters, suggesting a need for taller shelters. A large portion (39%) of dead seedlings were neither browsed nor girdled, signaling the importance of other mortality agents. An adaptive approach is recommended to compensate for high seedling mortality and the limited effectiveness of protective devices.
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Keywords: herbivory; northern hardwoods; riparian restoration; seedling mortality; tree shelters

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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