, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 0263-0275

Introduced Species and Management of a Nothofagus/Austrocedrus Forest

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Abstract

Isla Victoria (Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina), a large island dominated by native Nothofagus and Austrocedrus forest, has old plantations of many introduced tree species, some of which are famed invaders of native ecosystems elsewhere. There are also large populations of introduced deer and shrubs that may interact in a complex way with the introduced trees, as well as a recently arrived population of wild boar. Long-standing concern that the introduced trees will invade and transform native forest may be unwarranted, as there is little evidence of progressive invasion, even close to the plantations, despite over 50 years of opportunity. Introduced and native shrubs allow scattered introduced trees to achieve substantial size in abandoned pastures, but in almost all areas neither the trees nor the shrubs appear to be spreading beyond these sites. These shrub communities may be stable rather than successional, but the technology for restoring them to native forest is uncertain and probably currently impractical. Any attempt to remove the exotic tree seedlings and saplings from native forest would probably create the very conditions that would favor colonization by exotic plants rather than native trees, while simply clear-cutting the plantations would be unlikely to lead to regeneration of Nothofagus or Austrocedrus. The key to maintaining native forest is preventing catastrophic fire, as several introduced trees and shrubs would be favored over native dominant trees in recolonization. Deer undoubtedly interact with both native and introduced trees and shrubs, but their net effect on native forest is not yet clear, and specific management of deer beyond the current hunting by staff is unwarranted, at least if preventing tree invasion is the goal. The steep terrain and shallow soil make the recently arrived boar a grave threat to the native forest. Eradication is probably feasible and should be attempted quickly.