Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 203–215 | Cite as

Recruitment bottlenecks in the rare Australian conifer Wollemia nobilis

  • Heidi C. ZimmerEmail author
  • Tony D. Auld
  • John Benson
  • Patrick J. Baker
Original Paper


Seedling survival plays a critical role in maintaining a supply of potential recruits. We examined seedling recruitment, survival and growth in Wollemia nobilis, a rare, long-lived Australian conifer. Wollemia nobilis seedlings and juveniles were monitored for 16 years (1996–2011). While W. nobilis can recruit from seed and, unlike most conifers, persist through resprouting, seed-based recruitment was the primary focus of this study. Sixty-five per cent of new seedlings died within their first year and only 7 % persisted for the 16-year monitoring period. However, 44 % of established juvenile plants (of unknown age at the beginning of the study) persisted throughout the 16-year monitoring period. Growth of seedlings and juveniles was very slow; growth estimates for most individuals had 95 % confidence intervals that included zero. The recruitment strategy of W. nobilis may be to maintain a slow-growing juvenile bank—a strategy typical of other shade-tolerant rainforest trees, including other Araucariaceae. Seedling recruitment in W. nobilis may act together with resprouting to maintain the population.


Araucariaceae Critically endangered Juvenile bank Rainforest Survival analysis Wollemi pine 



For data collection we thank W. Jones, J. Allen and C. Pavich. For data collection and field assistance we thank S. Clarke. We thank the anonymous reviewer for their constructive feedback. This work was supported by the Wollemi Pine Recovery Team, Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW), NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. H. Z. is supported by an Australian Post-graduate Award and the Sidney Perry Foundation.

Supplementary material

10531_2013_593_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (498 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 498 kb)


  1. Alvarez-Buylla ER, Garcia-Barrios R, Lara-Moreno C, Martínez-Ramos M (1996) Demographic and genetic models in conservation biology: applications and perspectives for tropical rain forest tree species. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 27:387–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Banks J (2002) Wollemi pine: tree find of the 20th century. In: Dargavel J, Gaughwin D, Libbis B (eds) Austalia’s ever-changing forests V. Proceedings of the fifth national conference on Australian forest history, pp 85–89Google Scholar
  3. Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B (2012) Package ‘lme 4’.
  4. Bellingham PJ, Sparrow AD (2000) Resprouting as a life history strategy in woody plant communities. Oikos 89:409–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benson J, Allen C (2007) Vegetation associated with Wollemia nobilis (Araucariaceae). Cunninghamia 10:255–262Google Scholar
  6. Benson D, McDougall L (1995) Ecology of Sydney plant species: part 3: dicotyledon families Cabombaceae to Eupomatiaceae. Cunninghamia 4:217–431Google Scholar
  7. Benson D, McDougall L (1997) Ecology of Sydney plant species: part 5 dicotyledon families Flacourtiaceae to Myrsinaceae. Cunninghamia 5:330–544Google Scholar
  8. Benson D, McDougall L (1998) Ecology of Sydney plant species: part 6 dicotyledon family Myrtaceae. Cunninghamia 5:808–987Google Scholar
  9. Bond W (1989) The tortoise and the hare: ecology of angiosperm dominance and gymnosperm persistence. Biol J Linn Soc 36:227–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bond WJ, Midgley JJ (2003) The evolutionary ecology of sprouting in woody plants. Int J Plant Sci 164:S103–S114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bond WJ, Scott AC (2010) Fire and the spread of flowering plants in the Cretaceous. N Phytol 188:1137–1150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boyce MS (1992) Population viability analysis. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 23:481–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brokaw NVL (1985) Gap-phase regeneration in a tropical forest. Ecology 66:682–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bureau of Meteorology (2013) Weather station data. Accessed Oct 2013
  15. Burrows GE, Bullock S (1999) Leaf anatomy of Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis, Araucariaceae). Aust J Bot 47:795–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Burrows GE, Offord CA, Meagher PF, Ashton K (2003) Axillary meristems and the development of epicormic buds in Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis). Ann Bot 92:835–844PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Caughley G (1994) Directions in conservation biology. J Anim Ecol 63:215–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Connell JH, Green PT (2000) Seedling dynamics over thirty-two years in a tropical rain forest tree. Ecology 81:568–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. De Steven D (1994) Tropical tree seedling dynamics: recruitment patterns and their population consequences for three canopy species in Panama. J Trop Ecol 10:369–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Del Tredici P (2001) Sprouting in temperate trees: a morphological and ecological review. Bot Rev 67:121–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Delcamp M, Gourlet-Fleury S, Flores O, Gamier E (2009) Can functional classification of tropical trees predict population dynamics after disturbance? J Veg Sci 19:209–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Delissio LJ, Primack RB, Hall P, Lee HS (2002) A decade of canopy-tree seedling survival and growth in two Bornean rain forests: persistence and recovery from suppression. J Trop Ecol 18:645–658Google Scholar
  23. Dietze MC, Clark JS (2008) Changing the gap dynamics paradigm: vegetative regeneration control on forest response to disturbance. Ecol Monogr 78:331–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Eckert CG (2002) The loss of sex in clonal plants. Evol Ecol 15:501–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Enright NJ, Hill RS (1995) Ecology of the southern conifers. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Enright NJ, Ogden J, Rigg LS (1999) Dynamics of forests with Araucariaceae in the western Pacific. J Veg Sci 10:793–804CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Enright NJ, Miller BP, Perry GLW (2003) Demography of the long-lived conifer Agathis ovata in maquis and rainforest, New Caledonia. J Veg Sci 14:625–636Google Scholar
  28. Fox GA (2001) Failure time analysis. Studying times to events and rates at which events occur. In: Scheiner S, Gurevitch J (eds) Design and analysis of ecological experiments. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 235–266Google Scholar
  29. Gill AM, Ashton DH (1968) Role of bark type in relative tolerance to fire of three central Victorian eucalypts. Aust J Bot 16:491–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harper JL (1977) Population biology of plants. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Hill R, Brodribb T (1999) Turner review no. 2. Southern conifers in time and space. Aust J Bot 47:639–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Itoh A, Yamakura T, Ogino K, Seng Lee H, Ashton PS (1997) Spatial distribution patterns of two predominant emergent trees in a tropical rainforest in Sarawak, Malaysia. Plant Ecol 132:121–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: version 3.1, 2nd edn. IUCN, GlandGoogle Scholar
  34. IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) (2011) The IUCN Red List of threatened species: Wollemia nobilis. Accessed 1 July 2013
  35. Johnston R, Lacey C (1983) Multi-stemmed trees in rainforest. Aust J Bot 3:189–195Google Scholar
  36. Jones W, Hill K, Allen J (1995) Wollemia nobilis, a new living Australian genus and species in the Araucariaceae. Telopea 6:173–176Google Scholar
  37. Kelly D, Sork VL (2002) Mast seeding in perennial plants: why, how, where? Annu Rev Ecol Syst 33:427–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kershaw P, Wagstaff B (2001) The southern conifer family Araucariaceae: history, status, and value for paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 32:397–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kershaw P, Clark JS, Gill AM, D’Costa DM (2002) A history of fire in Australia. In: Bradstock RA, Williams J, Gill AM (eds) Flammable Australia: the fire regimes and biodiversity of a continent. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 3–25Google Scholar
  40. Lawes MJ, Richards A, Dathe J, Midgley JJ (2011) Bark thickness determines fire resistance of selected tree species from fire-prone tropical savanna in north Australia. Plant Ecol 212:2057–2069CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Macphail M, Hill K, Partridge A, Truswell E, Foster C (1995) Wollemi Pine—old pollen records for a newly discovered genus of gymnosperm. Geol Today 11:48–49Google Scholar
  42. McDowell N, Pockman WT, Allen CD, Breshears DD, Cobb N, Kolb T, Plaut J, Sperry J, West A, Williams DG, Yepez EA (2008) Mechanisms of plant survival and mortality during drought: why do some plants survive while others succumb to drought? N Phytol 178:719–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McLoughlin S, Vajda V (2005) Ancient Wollemi pines resurgent. Am Sci 93:540–547Google Scholar
  44. Montgomery R, Chazdon R (2002) Light gradient partitioning by tropical tree seedlings in the absence of canopy gaps. Oecologia 131:165–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nagalingum NS, Drinnan AN, Lupia R, McLoughlin S (2002) Fern spore diversity and abundance in Australia during the Cretaceous. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 119:69–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. New South Wales Department of Conservation (2006) Wollemi pine recovery plan. NSW DEC, NSW, pp 1–47Google Scholar
  47. New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service (2001) Wollemi national park plan of management. NPWS, NSW, pp 1–69Google Scholar
  48. Offord C, Porter C, Meagher P, Errington G (1999) Sexual reproduction and early plant growth of the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis), a rare and threatened Australian conifer. Ann Bot 84:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Peakall R, Ebert D, Scott LJ, Meagher PF, Offord CA (2003) Comparative genetic study confirms exceptionally low genetic variation in the ancient and endangered relictual conifer, Wollemia nobilis (Araucariaceae). Mol Ecol 12:2331–2343PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pinard MA, Huffman J (1997) Fire resistance and bark properties of trees in a seasonally dry forest in eastern Bolivia. J Trop Ecol 13:727–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. R Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Accessed 26 April 2013
  52. Rees M, Condit R, Crawley M, Pacala S, Tilman D (2001) Long-term studies of vegetation dynamics. Science 293:650–654PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rigg LS, Enright NJ, Jaffré T, Perry GLW (2010) Contrasting population dynamics of the endemic New Caledonian conifer Araucaria laubenfelsii in maquis and rain forest. Biotropica 42:479–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rüger N, Huth A, Hubbell SP, Condit R (2009) Response of recruitment to light availability across a tropical lowland rain forest community. J Ecol 97:1360–1368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sanguinetti J, Kitzberger T (2008) Patterns and mechanisms of masting in the large-seeded southern hemisphere conifer Araucaria araucana. Aust Ecol 33:78–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Silvertown J (1987) Introduction to plant population ecology. Longman Group, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  57. Spies AN, Gray TA (1996) Gap size, within-gap position and canopy structure effects on conifer seedling establishment. J Ecol 84:635–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Steward G, Beveridge A (2010) A review of New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis (D. Don) Lindl.): its ecology, history, growth and potential for management for timber. NZ J For Sci 40:33–59Google Scholar
  59. Therneau T (2013) A package for survival analysis in S. R package version 2.37-4. Accessed 26 April 2013
  60. Tilman D (1994) Competition and biodiversity in spatially structured habitats. Ecology 75:2–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Turner IM (1990) Tree seedling growth and survival in a Malaysian rain forest. Biotropica 22:146–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Underwood AJ (1997) Experiments in ecology: their logical design and interpretation using analysis of variance. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  63. Whitmore T (1989) Canopy gaps and the two major groups of forest trees. Ecology 70:536–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi C. Zimmer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tony D. Auld
    • 2
  • John Benson
    • 3
  • Patrick J. Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forest and Ecosystem ScienceUniversity of MelbourneRichmondAustralia
  2. 2.Office of Environment and Heritage NSWHurstvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Science and ConservationRoyal Botanic Gardens TrustSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations