How planting method, weed abatement, and herbivory affect afforestation success

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Sweeney, B.W., S.J. Czapka, and C. Petrow. 2007. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry 31:85–92.

Download PDF


The success of upland and riparian afforestation depends on landowners making informed decisions about key factors such as the quality of seedlings (species, size, and root stock), planting technique, site preparation, weed and herbivore control, and planting pattern for the plantation. We show here that the short-term (1 year) and longer-term (3 year) effects on seedling survivorship and growth due to planting technique (dibble-bar versus auger) did not differ significantly for the five test species (red maple Acer rubrum L., eastern redbud Cercis canadensis L., green ash Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh, sweetbay magnolia Magnolia virginiana L., and sweet gum Liquidambar styraciflua L.). Weed treatment (tree mats, initial herbiciding, and annual herbiciding) also failed to significantly increase seedling survivorship or growth, a result hypothesized to be caused by high moisture and nutrient content of soils on the site. In contrast, tree shelters significantly increased seedling survivorship and growth after 1 and 3 years. For some species, 3-year survivorship was up to fivefold higher with shelters. Long-term weed control increased survivorship of sheltered seedlings but decreased survivorship for those without shelters because of increased exposure to deer. For this site, successful afforestation depends more on protecting seedlings from herbivory with tree shelters than on either the method of planting or the method of controlling weeds.


NSF Award No. DEB-0424681 Title: LTREB: Stream ecosystem structure and function within a maturing deciduous forest. Duration: August 2004–July 2009.