Restoring hardwood trees to lake riparian areas using three planting treatments

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© 2017 Society for Ecological Restoration Lake riparian areas provide wildlife habitat for a wide variety of species. Residential development throughout such lakeshore areas of the United States has increased exponentially in recent decades. Awareness of the vulnerability and importance of lakeshore ecosystems has increased concurrently. Lakeshore habitat restoration projects have been implemented to mitigate some of the negative impacts of human shoreline development, and containerized (CT) trees are frequently one of the highest costs associated with such restoration projects. As an alternative, we tested the effectiveness of using dormant bare-root (BR) trees in restoration projects along two lakeshores in northern Wisconsin, U.S.A. In addition, we experimented using BR stock that was incorporated into gravel medium at a local nursery and planted later in the summer months. We monitored growth and survival of four native tree species in these three planting treatments over a 3–4-year period. CT red maple (Acer rubra), paper birch (Betula paperifera), and northern red oak (Quercus rubra) increased in size significantly faster than BR and/or gravel culture (GC) counterparts, whereas CT showy mountain ash (Sorbus decora) growth rates were similar to those of BR and GC stock. Mortality was generally low, but for those species/planting treatments with higher mortality (paper birch and red oak), CT trees were more likely to survive than BR or GC trees. Our results show that the success of deciduous BR and/or GC tree stock relative to CT trees is species dependent, and for some species, CT trees' higher growth rates and survivorship could offset their higher costs.

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Restoration Ecology