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Ecosystem and Restoration Consequences of Invasive Woody Species Removal in Hawaiian Lowland Wet Forest

Abstract

A removal experiment was used to examine the restoration potential of a lowland wet forest in Hawaii, a remnant forest type that has been heavily invaded by non-native species and in which there is very little native species regeneration. All non-native woody and herbaceous biomass (approximately 45% of basal area) was removed in four 100-m2 removal plots; plots were followed for a three-year period. Removal plots had a lower leaf area index, higher air temperatures, higher afternoon soil temperatures, and lower relative humidity than control plots. Removal plots had 40% less litterfall mass and similarly reduced nutrient inputs. Leaf litter decomposition rates were much slower in the removal plots, due more to site quality than litter quality. However, soil N and P were not different between treatments. Native species had a distinct suite of leaf traits (greater integrated water use efficiency, lower mass-based leaf nutrient concentrations, and lower specific leaf area). Despite major environmental changes in the removal plots, native species’ diameter growth and litterfall productivity were not significantly greater after removal, testifying to the slow response capabilities of native Hawaiian trees. Our results are consistent with the expectation that native species are conservative in regards to resource use and may not strongly respond to canopy removal, at least at the adult stage. Management strategies will have to incorporate the slow growth rate of Hawaiian species and the fact that weeding may be required to suppress expansion and nutrient inputs of introduced species.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded and facilitated through NSF EPSCoR Awards 0237065 and 0554657, NSF REU 0139379, NSF TCUP 0223040, NSF CAREER 0546868, and The Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry. For coordinating student support, we thank K. Gunderson, S. Juvik, D. Kapp, H. E. Perry, C. Perez-Frayne, D. Price, and S. Ziegler-Chong. Access to field sites was provided by the Hawaii Army National Guard Environmental Office (Col. O. Peterson), and C. Thurkins, Major Lindsey, Craig Blaisdell, and Sean Botbyl facilitated this research at Keaukaha Military Reservation. We also thank C. Thurkins for her guidance and hard work and the numerous volunteers who assisted in plot creation. We thank all of those who helped us in the field, including K. Nelson-Kaula, J. Nygaard, K. Pien, B. Rowe, A. Skipper, L. Sweinhart, L. Vasquez-Radonic, and C. Wong. R. Schneider ran nutrient samples at the EPSCoR Analytical Laboratory Facility and L. Canale assisted with map making. D. Benitez and C. Perry provided helpful comments. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Ostertag.

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The study design was conceived and implemented by the three main authors, R.O., S.C., and J.M. All seven authors were involved in performing the research; two were undergraduate students (K.M.P. and J.H.E.) and two were technician employees (T.C.C. and J.R.S.). R.O. and S.C. analyzed the data in the paper, and R.O., S.C., and J.M. wrote the manuscript.

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Ostertag, R., Cordell, S., Michaud, J. et al. Ecosystem and Restoration Consequences of Invasive Woody Species Removal in Hawaiian Lowland Wet Forest. Ecosystems 12, 503–515 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-009-9239-3

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Keywords

  • aboveground biomass
  • Metrosideros polymorpha
  • non-native species
  • nutrient cycling
  • productivity
  • resource availability