To treat or not to treat? The seedling performance of native tree species for reforestation on degraded tropical peatlands of SE Asia

Degraded tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia are a major challenge for reforestation. Often treeless, drained and several times burnt, these peatland areas are nutrient-poor hostile environments prone to droughts, heavy flooding and extreme diurnal temperature changes. In order to succeed in establishment of a viable tree stand, careful selection of species and management techniques is needed. In this study we investigated the suitability of five native tree species for reforestation of tropical peatlands with three site preparation treatments for potentially enhancing seedling success: weeding, mounding and fertilizing. The study area was a clear-cut, drained and repeatedly burnt former tropical peat swamp forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Seedlings were grown in a field nursery, planted in the field and their growth and survival were monitored regularly for 1.5 years. Seedling growth in response to environmental variables and treatments was studied by linear mixed models and seedling survival with Cox regression models. In most cases, weeding and fertilizing proved beneficial for the growth and survival of the seedlings, whereas mounding only had a minor impact on seedling performance. The seedlings of Shorea balangeran performed the best and can be recommended for reforestation of heavily degraded areas. Alstonia pneumatophora and Dacryodes rostrata performed relatively well depending on the treatments, whereas Dyera polyphylla had mixed results with problems in seedling production, and Campnosperma squamatum performed rather poorly. The effects of wildfires which engulfed the study area two years after planting were also monitored and are discussed.
  • Authors: Lampela, M., Jauhiainen, J., Sarkkola, S., Vasander, H.
  • Author Affiliation: University of Helsinki, Natural Resources Institute Finland
  • Subjects: ecological restoration, peatlands, degraded land, weeding, fertilization, reforestation, seedlings
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • Source: Forest Ecology and Management 429: 217-225
  • Year: 2018
  • DOI:
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