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Understory structure in a 23-year-old Acacia koa forest and 2-year growth responses to silvicultural treatmentsAuthor(s): Paul G. Scowcroft; Janis E. Haraguchi; David M. Fujii
Source: Forest Ecology and Management 255: 1604-1617
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
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DescriptionRestoration of degraded Acacia koa forests in Hawaii often involves mechanical scarification to stimulate germination of seed buried in the soil and to suppress vegetation that competes with shade intolerant A. koa. Resulting even-age stands are gradually colonized by other plant species, but understory structure is poorly quantified, and the effects of management on understory vegetation are unknown. We examined the structure of the dominant understory species 23 years after stand initiation and determined their subsequent 2-year growth responses to silvicultural treatments prescribed to improve growth of koa. Release thinning, chemical control of introduced grasses, and phosphorus fertilization were applied in a split-plot experimental design. Results for DBH and height class distributions indicated that recruitment for most tree species began within a few years of stand initiation. By 23 years understory trees made up only 14% of total stand basal area, but they added greatly to native plant biodiversity. Alien grasses covered 92% of the forest floor and averaged 1.35 Mg ha−1. Of the four most abundant native understory tree species, only shade intolerant Myoporum sandwicense grew faster in response to the treatments. P-fertilizer combined with grass control significantly increased production of the native shrub, Rubus hawaiiensis. Notably, alien grass biomass did not increase in response to thinning, and actually declined in P-fertilized plots. Only, where P-fertilizer was applied were P concentrations of understory leaves elevated. Foliar concentrations of other nutrients were generally unaffected by treatments. Our findings suggest that the conservative silvicultural treatments we used can be applied without adversely impacting the capacity of aggrading A. koa forests to support a diversity of native understory plants. Lack of an increase in alien grass biomass, and in the case of P fertilization, a reduction in grass biomass, indicates that treatments should not increase competition with native species.
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CitationScowcroft, Paul G.; Haraguchi, Janis E.; Fujii, David M. 2008. Understory structure in a 23-year-old Acacia koa forest and 2-year growth responses to silvicultural treatments. Forest Ecology and Management 255: 1604-1617
KeywordsSubtropical lower montane wet forest, Introduced-grass control, Release thinning, P fertilization, Leaf nutrient concentrations, Hawaii
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