Performance of 11 tree species under different management treatments in restoration plantings in a tropical dry forest
Ecological restoration in tropical dry forests urgently needs to incorporate experimental evidence to increase effectiveness. The main barriers for tree establishment are adverse microenvironmental conditions and competition with exotic grasses. Therefore, management should address such barriers in order to enhance tree performance. We evaluated the effect of plastic mulching, grass removal, and no management on survival after 2 months and stem volume and canopy size after 2 years and integrated response index (IRI) in plantings of 11 native tree species with different growth rates in pastures near the tropical dry forest of Chamela, Mexico. Results revealed that: (1) initial seedling mortality was minimal in all treatments (8%) and lowest under no management (2%); (2) plastic mulching, but not grass removal, leads to increased size for most species, irrespective of their growth rank; (3) a trade‐off between initial plant survival and size after 2 years occurred due to plastic mulching; and (4) most species showed similar values of the IRI because of high survival, stem volume, or canopy cover. Grass removal decreased early survival of all species and increased stem volume only for one slow‐growing species. The use of plastic mulching increased stem volume for slow‐growing species, whereas fast‐growing species developed larger canopies with that treatment. Effects of grass removal and mulching seem to be very species‐specific and not dependent in growth rank of species, although overall mulching seems to provide better conditions for seedling performance than grass removal alone.
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