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Canopy manipulation as a tool for restoring mature forest conifers under an early‐successional angiosperm canopy

Tulod, Adrian M., Norton, David A., Sealey, Courteney
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.1 pp. 31-37
Kunzea, Podocarpus totara, branches, canopy, dead wood, edge effects, forests, girdling, herbivores, light transmission, seedlings, trees, understory, ungulates
Low‐light environments in early‐successional forests that have established after abandonment of farming often restrict the establishment of later successional species resulting in an arrested succession. This 6‐year study tested the potential of different canopy manipulations to facilitate the establishment of a light‐demanding canopy tree species, tōtara (Podocarpus totara), within a regenerating kānuka (Kunzea robusta) stand. Results highlighted the effectiveness of artificial gaps over other methods (ring‐barking and edge‐planting) in accelerating the growth of planted tōtara. Seedlings under gaps grew consistently taller and faster over time indicative of an improved understorey light environment. Ring‐barking did not have a significant effect on tōtara growth because only a portion of the treated trees died, and after 6 years dead trees remained standing with intact branches resulting in insignificant increases in light transmission. At the forest edge sites, tōtara growth was highly variable. Although some seedlings grew as tall as in the gaps, others did not. Survival was also lower in the edge sites than in other treatments, which was likely due to enhanced herbivory from ungulates which impacted some plants at these sites. Gap creation is likely to be an important tool for restoring late‐successional canopy species in regenerating stands both through providing ideal sites for the growth of light‐demanding species such as tōtara and through natural establishment of other future canopy trees into the gaps.