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Recruitment bottlenecks in the rare Australian conifer Wollemia nobilis

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Heidi C. Zimmer.

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Zimmer, H.C., Auld, T.D., Benson, J. et al. Recruitment bottlenecks in the rare Australian conifer Wollemia nobilis . Biodivers Conserv 23, 203–215 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-013-0593-2

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Keywords

  • Araucariaceae
  • Critically endangered
  • Juvenile bank
  • Rainforest
  • Survival analysis
  • Wollemi pine