Canadian Forest Service Publications
Why seedlings grow: influence of plant attributes. 2018. Grossnickle, S.C.; MacDonald, J.E. New Forests 49: 1-34.
Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 39577
CFS Availability: PDF (download)
Available from the Journal's Web site. †
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Successful forest restoration requires planting quality seedlings with optimal growth potential. Thus, nurseries need to produce seedlings with plant attributes that favor the best chance of successful establishment once they are field planted. From the midtwentieth century on, research foresters have critically examined plant attributes that confer improved seedling growth under various restoration site conditions. This review examines the value of commonly measured seedling quality attributes (i.e., height, diameter, root mass, shoot-to-root ratio, drought resistance, freezing tolerance, nutrient status, root growth potential, and root electrolyte leakage) that have been recognized as important in explaining why seedlings with improved attributes have better growth after planting. Seedlings with plant attributes that fall within the appropriate range of values can increase the speed with which they overcome planting stress, initiate growth, and become ‘‘coupled’’ to the forest restoration site, thereby ensuring successful seedling establishment. Although planting high quality seedlings does not guarantee successful seedling establishment, it increases chances for successful establishment and growth.
Plain Language Summary
After industrial or natural disturbances, forests may not sufficiently regenerate themselves without help from forest restoration activities. Successful forest restoration requires planting quality seedlings that possess optimal growth potential. Nurseries can produce seedlings with attributes that endow the best chances for successful establishment and good growth after planting on restoration sites if clients are willing to pay for crop inputs. Since the mid-20th century, research foresters have critically examined such attributes and published their results. Here, we review over 350 articles on seedling attributes, which have been recognized as important in answering the question why seedlings grow after planting. Appropriate ranges of these attributes can increase the speed with which seedlings overcome planting stress and become ‘coupled’ to the forest restoration site, thereby ensuring successful establishment and growth. Although planting seedlings with these attributes does not guarantee restoration success, planting seedlings with these attributes increases the chances for this outcome. If restoration practitioners take this knowledge into consideration and order quality seedlings, then management objectives for a restored area could be reached sooner.