Designer niches in which environmental variables are controlled are useful in forest restoration to enhance survival of planted tree seedlings. Here, we evaluate particular manipulated habitats, on site variables, and pre-seedling conditions hypothesized to improve the survival rate of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) seedlings out-planted in Waterton Lakes National Park. The tree species is in peril due to blister rust and mountain pine beetle infestations in its range; and is a restoration priority in Waterton Lakes because populations in the park are highly infected with blister rust (up to 90%). At Summit Lake, 21 plots were set up and half of each was terra-torched; 1000 seedlings were planted in clusters of three, under four conditions: on burned areas in burned beargrass mats, in burned areas where beargrass mats were not present, in unburned areas where beargrass was present, and in unburned areas without beargrass. This study reports data for the seventh year after planting, and overall, survival was 53% for individual seedlings and at least one seedling survived in 60.8% of clusters. Planting in burned areas increased cluster survival (by 34.3%, p ˂ 0.0001) and planting near microsites increased cluster survival (by 19.3%, p ˂ 0.0001); the type of microsite did not make a difference. Planting in beargrass mats decreased survival, but not significantly (8.9%, p = 0.11) and this was true for burns, not unburned areas. Inoculation with native ectomycorrhizal fungi did not enhance survival most likely because controls on lightly terra-torched and unburned areas had access to local native fungi. This is the first study to report statistics on the planting of seedlings in clusters; the results need to be compared with studies where seedlings are planted individually.
Cripps, C. L., Alger, G., & Sissons, R. (2018). Designer niches promote seedling survival in forest restoration: A 7-year study of Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis) seedlings in Waterton Lakes National Park. Forests, 9(8). https://doi.org/10.3390/f9080477