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    Restoring degraded mesic-montane forests represents a major challenge in maintaining functioning ecosystems throughout the tropics. A key example of this lies in Hawai‘i, where restoring native koa (Acacia koa, A. Gray) forests are a top conservation and forestry priority because of the critical habitat and high-value timber products that they provide. Efforts to restore koa forests, however, are directly impeded by extensive, nonnative kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum Hochst. ex Chiov.) swards occupying deforested montane landscapes. In this study, we implemented a combination of grass suppression and selection of koa seedling stocktypes to measure outplanting performance in a naturalized site on the island of Maui. Seedlings were grown in a nursery in two root container sizes (111 and 207 cm3) and subsequently outplanted into grass-dominated plots that were either untreated or suppressed with a high-rate herbicide combination of imazapyr and glyphosate (1.7 kg a.i. ha-1, respectively), 30 days prior to planting. Across all treatments, seedling survival was high ([95 %). Thirty months after planting, trees from the larger stocktype had significantly greater growth in height and root-collar diameter. Initial grass suppression resulted in trees that were 34 % taller with 66 % larger root-collar diameters after 30 months. Herbicide treated plots also had significantly higher leaf area indices (2.6 vs. 1.8 m2 m-2), indicative of higher photosynthetic capacity and canopy closure. Grass suppression increased soil temperature along with soil moisture in the first year followed by a dramatic drop in moisture corresponding to large growth responses by koa seedlings after the first year. These results demonstrate how the combination of fundamental silvicultural practices in the nursery and on the outplanting site can accelerate tree growth to meet restoration goals in shorter time intervals. This is a first report of koa (a leguminous species) tolerance to a high-rate, pre-plant application of the herbicide active ingredient imazapyr.

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    Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Davis, Anthony S.; Leary, James J. K.; Aghai, Matthew M. 2015. Stocktype and grass suppression accelerate the restoration trajectory of Acacia koa in Hawaiian montane ecosystems. New Forests. 46: 855-867.


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    Hawai'i, seedlings, stocktype, site preparation, grass suppression, soil moisture

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