Comparing the Performance of Tree Stakes and Seedlings to Restore Abandoned Tropical Pastures

Comparing the Performance of Tree Stakes and Seedlings to Restore Abandoned Tropical Pastures

Rakan A. Zahawi (1,2), Karen D. Holl (3)


Tree seedlings are commonly planted to restore abandoned agricultural lands, whereas vegetative plantings have received little study. We evaluated the ability of 10 tree species to establish and survive over 3 years by planting 2-m-tall vegetative stakes at three sites in southern Costa Rica. We quantified above- and belowground stake and seedling biomass for two species (Erythrina poeppigiana and Gliricidia sepium) after 1 year and canopy cover and height of E. poeppigiana stakes and saplings at 3 years. We also compared economic, logistical, and ecological advantages of each methodology. Erythrina poeppigiana and E. berteroana had the highest number of live stakes by the study's conclusion (>90%) and were among species with largest canopies. Most others ranged between 40 and 70% with highly site-specific survival and growth rates, whereas three species did poorly. Four species developed fruit by year 3, including Ficus pertusa and Acnistus arborescens, that are consumed by frugivores. Above- and belowground biomass was 7–50 times greater in stakes (65–125 g) than seedlings (2–15 g). Stake roots were considerably more extensive and reached lengths more than 6 m. Erythrina poeppigiana stakes had higher canopy cover than saplings after 3 years but not height. Seedlings are 2–10 times more expensive to establish, although transporting stakes is more cumbersome and the suite of species that establish vegetatively is limited. This underused technique should be included in the growing repertoire of tropical forest restoration tools. Given tradeoffs in propagation methods, a combination is likely to be most efficient and successful.

Link to Wiley and to Tree Stake article here

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