We investigated the effect of leaf litter on the establishment of Eucalyptus incrassata, a mallee eucalypt. It has been suggested that litter accumulation may hinder seedling establishment, and that the removal of litter may be one of the mechanisms through which fire enhances recruitment. We conducted factorial experiments testing the effects of three kinds of leaf litter on E. incrassata seeds and seedlings at three contiguous sites with different land use histories. One site was an uncleared E. incrassata open mallee woodland (Mallee site), one a cleared area that had been ungrazed for about five years (Pasture site) and the third an area of mallee rolled some 40 years ago and permitted to regenerate (Regrowth site). Litter had no effect on emergence of planted E. incrassata seeds, but emergence differed between sites. Overall, the percentage of seeds that germinated and emerged was substantial (mean 35.2% ± 25.9%). Seedling shoot biomass did not differ between sites or litter treatments. Although seedlings grown in Pasture litter suffered higher mortality rates, overall mortality rates were low (mean 13.2% ± 15.5%), suggesting that leaf litter has little effect on recruitment rates during winter and spring. We conclude that leaf litter does not affect emergence or growth in young E. incrassata seedlings during winter and spring, when most establishment occurs. Our results emphasize the difficulty in predicting litter effects on recruitment.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Andersen, A. N. 1987. Effects of seed predation by ants on seedling densities at a woodland site in SE Australia. Oikos 48: 171–174.
Bureau of Meteorology (1999). Climate averages. Murray Bridge (Murray Bridge P.O.). Commonwealth of Australia, http://www.BoM.GOV.AU/climate/averages/tables/cw_024521. shtml
Cohen, J. 1988. Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. 2nd ed. Erlbaum Associates, NJ.
Davidson, N. J. & Reid, J. B. 1980. Comparison of the early growth characteristics of the Eucalyptus subgenera Monocalyptus and Symphyomyrtus. Austr. J. Bot. 28: 453–461.
Facelli, J. M. 1994. Multiple indirect effects of plant litter affect the establishment of woody seedlings in old fields. Ecology 75: 1727–1735.
Facelli, J. M. & Kerrigan, R. 1996. Effects of ash and four types of litter in the establishment of Eucalyptus obliqua. Ecoscience 3: 319–324.
Facelli, J. M. & Ladd, B. 1996. Germination requirements and responses to leaf litter of four species of eucalypt. Oecologia 107: 441–445.
Facelli, J. M. & Pickett, S. T. A. 1991a. Plant litter: its dynamics and effects on plant community structure. Bot. Rev. 57: 1–32.
Facelli, J. M. & Pickett, S. T. A. 1991b. Indirect effects of litter on woody seedlings subject to herb competition. Oikos 62: 129–138.
Facelli, J. M., Williams, R., Fricker, S. & Ladd, B. 1999. Establishment and growth of seedlings of Eucalyptus obliqua: interactive effects of litter, water, and pathogens. Austr. J. Ecol. 24: 484–494.
Georgiadis, Nicholas J. 1989. Microhabitat variation in an African savanna: effects of woody cover and herbivores in Kenya. J. Tropical Ecol. 5: 93–108.
Grime, J. P. 1979. Plant Strategies and Vegetation Processes. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.
Heddle, E. M. & Specht R. L. 1975. Dark Island Heath (Ninety-Mile Plain, South Australia). VIIIĪ The effect of fertilizers on composition and growth, 1950- 1972. Austr. J. Bot. 11: 151–164.
Jessop, J. P. & Toelken, H. R. 1986. Flora of South Australia. South Australian Government Printing, Adelaide.
Laut, P., Heyligers, P. C., Keig, G., Loffler, E., Margules, C., Scott, R. M., & Sullivan, M. E. 1977. Environments of South Australia, Province 2, Murray Mallee. Div. Land Use Research, C.S.I.R.O., Canberra.
Mackay, D. A. 1991. The effects of ants on herbivory and herbivore numbers on foliage of the mallee eucalypt, Eucalyptus incrassata Labill. Austr. J. Ecol. 16: 471–483.
Mapstone, B. D. 1995. Scalable decision rules for environmental impact studies: effect size, Type I and Type II errors. Ecol. Monogr. 5: 401–410.
May, R., Hunter, M. & Gabriel, R. 1993. NPFact 1.0. Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, British Columbia.
Miller, T. E. 1987. Effects of emergence time in survival time and growth in an early old-field plant community. Oecologia 72: 272–278.
Myster, R W. 1994. Contrasting litter effects on old field tree germination and emergence. Vegetatio 114: 169–174.
Onans, J. & Parsons, R. F. 1980. Regeneration of native plants on abandoned mallee farmland in south-eastern Australia. Austr. J. Bot. 28: 479–493.
Parker, V. T. & Muller, C. H. 1982. Vegetational and enviromental changes beneath isolated live oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) in an California annual grassland. Amer. Midland Nat. 107: 69–81.
Parsons, R. F. 1968. An introduction to the regeneration of mallee eucalypts. Proc. Roy. Soc. Victoria 81: 59–68.
Pescott, E. E. 1941. Germination of the seed of mallee eucalypts. Victoria Naturalist. 58: 8.
Peterson, C. J. & Facelli, J. M. 1992. Contrasting germination and seedling growth of Betula alleghaniensis and Rhus typhina subjected to various amounts and types of plant litter. Amer. J. Bot. 79: 1209–1216.
SAS Institute 1994. JMP! v3 Statistics and Graphics Guide. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.
Schupp, E.W. & Fuentes, M. 1995. Spatial patterns of seed dispersal and the unification of plant population ecology. Ecoscience 2: 267–275.
Specht, R. L. 1963. Dark Island Heath (Ninety-Mile Plain, South Australia) VII. The effect of fertilizers on composition and growth, 1950- 60. Austr. J. Bot. 11: 67–94.
Wellington, A. B. 1984. Leaf water potentials, fire and the regeneration of mallee eucalypts in semi-arid, south-eastern Australia. Oecologia 64: 360–362.
Wellington, A. B. & Noble, I. R. 1985a. Post-fire recruitment and mortality in a population of the mallee Eucalyptus incrassata in semi-arid, south-eastern Australia. J. Ecol. 73: 645–656.
Wellington, A. B. & Noble, I. R. 1985b. Seed dynamics and factors limiting recruitment of the mallee Eucalyptus incrassata in semiarid, south-eastern Australia. J. Ecol. 73: 657–666.
Yates, C. J., Hobbs, R. J. & Bell, R. W. 1994. Factors limiting the recruitment of Eucalyptus salmonophloia in remnant woodlands. I. Pattern of flowering, seed production and seed fall. Austr. J. Bot. 42: 531–542.
Zimmer, W. J. 1940. Plant invasions in the mallee. Victoria Nat. 56: 143–147.
About this article
Cite this article
Hastwell, G.T., Facelli, J.M. Effects of leaf litter on woody seedlings in xeric successional communities. Plant Ecology 148, 225–231 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009834425538
- Eucalyptus incrassata
- Leaf litter
- Old fields
- Seedling emergence
- Seedling establishment