, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 11-21
Date: 23 Dec 2008

The restoration of gravelly floodplain vegetation and endemic plants to riparian habitat in a Japanese river

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Aster kantoensis, an endangered and monocarpic perennial plant species, is endemic to the gravelly floodplain of a few rapid flowing rivers in eastern central Japan. In recent years, an extreme declining trend in the species has been accelerated due to the strong negative influence by invasion of an alien grass, Eragrostis curvula. A restoration project aimed at recovering the original condition of the floodplain in the Kinu River, central Japan, has been started. To determine the possibility of successful restoration as well as its habitat preferences, I carried out some seed sowing experiments. In April 2003, seeds collected from a seminatural habitat were sown (54,000 seeds) in the restoration site (1.2 ha), where flood frequency, substrate condition, and control of alien plants are combined to form different habitat conditions. Seedling survival, flowery, and seed production were subsequently monitored from 2003 to 2005. Seed cohorts completed their life cycles within 3 years, and mean fitness of 927 was achieved. Performance of A. kantoensis seedlings was generally greater for environmental variables of sandy-type substrate and/or with control of alien plants. In addition, there were significant negative correlations between percentage survival, percentage flowery, and seed production with vegetation cover and coverage of E. curvula. The results confirm that, if safe sites with sparse vegetation exist, irrespective of their substrate condition, as well as seed sources of river endemics in natural habitats, restoration of riparian vegetation including river endemics is possible. The aggressive alien species E. curvula should be taken into consideration.