Plant Ecology

, Volume 191, Issue 2, pp 163–170 | Cite as

Low soil water and nutrient availability below New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis (D. Don) Lindl.) trees increase the relative fitness of kauri seedlings

  • E. VerkaikEmail author
  • F. Berendse
  • R. O. Gardner
Original paper


Tree species can affect the soil they are growing on and this might influence their fitness. The New Zealand gymnosperm tree species kauri (Agathis australis (D. Don) Lindl.) which grows in mixed angiosperm–gymnosperm forests has a substantial effect upon the soil. We studied the hypotheses that: (1) low soil moisture availability below mature kauri trees hampers growth of kauri seedlings and angiosperm seedlings, (2) low nutrient availability below kauri trees hampers only angiosperm seedlings, and (3) angiosperm seedlings are hampered more than kauri seedlings by the conditions below kauri trees. We tested these hypotheses by planting seedlings of kauri and mapau (Myrsine australis (A. Rich) Allan) under kauri trees and applying the following treatments: removal of herbs, removal of litter, removal of nutrient limitation, and elimination of root competition of mature kauri trees. The results indicate that low soil moisture availability, or the combination of low soil moisture availability and low nutrient fertility, hampers the growth of kauri as well as mapau seedlings below kauri trees. The mapau seedlings are hampered relatively more than the kauri seedlings which might result in an increased relative fitness of the latter.


Forest succession Plant competition Plant–soil interactions 



The investigations were supported by the Research Council for Earth and Life Sciences (ALW) with financial aid from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). We thank the Auckland Regional Council for permission to work in the Waitakere Ranges, J. van Walsem for assistance with the chemical analyses and W.G. Braakhekke for critical comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Auckland War Memorial MuseumAucklandNew Zealand

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