Seedling predation and growth at a rainforest-pasture ecotone, and the value of shoots as seedling analogues
Variation in the survival and growth of seedlings of six rainforest plant species was examined at a site where rainforest adjoins pasture in subtropical eastern Australia. The site was regularly used by a feeding group of red-necked pademelons Thylogale thetis, a herbivorous macropodid marsupial. Protection from herbivory, using wire mesh cages to exclude the pademelons, significantly increased seedling growth and survival in five of the six plant species. The caged minus uncaged seedling growth rates were used as a measure of the level of growth suppression due to pademelon herbivory, which varied significantly among plant species, was greater in pasture than in forest, and decreased with distance from the forest edge. This pattern of variation among species and positions was highly correlated with that observed in a separate series of experiments that had assessed overnight damage levels to cut shoots resulting from pademelon browsing. Cut shoots should therefore be useful as seedling analogues, offering a potential for better experimental replication than planted seedlings. Both data sets agree in their support of the proposition that pademelon predation on seedlings is likely to suppress differentially the regeneration of certain plant species at rainforest edges.
Forest Ecology and Management
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