Establishment and growth of living fence species: an overlooked tool for the restoration of degraded areas in the tropics

  • Published source details Zahawi R. A. (2005) Establishment and growth of living fence species: an overlooked tool for the restoration of degraded areas in the tropics. Restoration Ecology, 13, 92-102


In the tropics there are numerous tree species which can establish vegetatively and could potentially be used in forest restoration projects. However, often little is known about a particular species establishment ability vis stake planting. This study evaluated the establishment ability and cover development of a number of proposed ‘living fence’ tree species in three separate field trials in Honduras, central America. The study focused on the evaluation of 11 species for their ability to establish in a garden experiment.

Study area: The study was carried out between March 2000 and June 2002 in Pico Bonito National Park (100,000 ha) in northern Honduras. Approximately 80% is a core zone of undisturbed forest, with a surrounding buffer zone heavily deforested and populated with numerous villages.

Stake planting: In March 2000 in the northern buffer zone, an abandoned pasture dominated by native grasses, forbs and shrubs, was selected to undertake stake-planting trials. The study was undertaken to quantify stake establishment and survival of 11 tree species thought to establish vegetatively. Establishment was defined as when stakes first sprouted. All stakes were cut and planted in 1 week at the onset of the dry season (n = 30 stakes/species) in rows 1.5 m apart, in a 15 × 45 m grid. Within each row, one stake of each species was randomly assigned a location. Prior to planting, stake bases were cut at a 45° angle (this was considered to improve rooting). If present, lateral branches were removed. A hole was made with a suppoting stick and stake planted approximately 15–20 cm deep. Dbh was measured at planting, stake establishment and survival were monitored for 5 months.

Establishment success: The 11 species differed greatly in rapidity of establishment and overall survival. Four species (Gliricidia sepium, Erythrina berteroana, Jatropha curcas and Erythrina fusca) had rapid establishment and high survival in the first month (70-94%) with most of these subsequently surviving for the 5-month duration of the study. Bursera simaruba had high initial establishment success (around 90%) but survival decreased over time (to 60% after 5-months). 20% of Spathodea campanulata stakes had established by the third month but overall establishment success was less than 10% at 5 months. Spondias mombin (20% survival) and Dendropanax arboreus (10% survival) took 3-5 months to establish. No Salix humboldtiana survived beyond the first month. Lonchocarpus lasiotropis and Dalbergia glomerata stakes all died soonafter planting.

Conclusions: Of the stakes of 11 tree species planted at the onset of the dry season, Gliricidia sepium, Erythrina berteroana and Jatropha curcas had high establishment success and overall survival. Erythrina fusca also proved successful (establishment and subsequent survival of over 80% by the end of the 5-month study period); Bursera simaruba was lower (60% establishing). The remaining six species had poor establishment success and survival. The authors indicate however, that some might benefit from wet season planting.

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