Species-specific responses to environmental stress on germination and juvenile growth of two Bolivian Andean agroforestry species
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Integrating native trees in farmland can support soil, water and biodiversity conservation. This is particularly important in regions characterized by long periods of drought and soil erosion, such as the Bolivian Andes, where agroforestry with native woody species is rarely applied. Better knowledge on the effects of environmental stress on propagation and establishment of such native plants is needed to optimize their cultivation. In our study, we tested the effects of temperature and scarification on seed germination, and assessed seedling survival and juvenile growth of two potential agroforestry species (Prosopis laevigata var. andicola, Schinus molle) under diverse soil and water conditions. Temperatures above 30 °C accelerated germination, but they increased fungi infestation in the case of S. molle. The application of acid and mechanical scarification significantly improved the germination capacity of P. laevigata var. andicola. Medium to high moisture levels in sand provided the most favourable conditions for plant growth. S. molle was more sensitive to dry and P. laevigata var. andicola more vulnerable to water-saturated clay loam. Mulching enhanced the survival and growth of S. molle juveniles, but increased P. laevigata var. andicola’s growth in sand and dry soils only. Our results may facilitate guidance on improving propagation of these two potential agroforestry species under environmental stress conditions. More generally, our study shows that easily applicable treatments, such as mulching, can significantly improve the cultivation of native species, provided that their habitat requirements and limiting factors are well known. This highlights the relevance of identifying and closing such knowledge gaps for native trees and shrubs in order to promote their potential for use in agroforestry.