Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Rainfall and grazing: not the only barriers to arid-zone conifer recruitment

Heidi C. Zimmer A B D , Singarayer K. Florentine A , Rita Enke C and Martin Westbrooke A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Environmental Management, Faculty of Science and Technology, Federation University Australia, PO Box 663, Vic. 3350, Australia.

B Present address: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 1481, Australia.

C Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 318, Buronga, NSW 2739, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: heidi.zimmer@gmail.com

Australian Journal of Botany 65(2) 109-119 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT16104
Submitted: 18 May 2016  Accepted: 24 January 2017   Published: 3 March 2017

Abstract

An understanding of the drivers of infrequent recruitment is fundamental in managing for species persistence. Callitris glaucophylla Joy Thomps. & L.A.S. Johnson (white cypress-pine) is a slow-growing, long-lived conifer, with a distribution that extends across arid Australia. Arid populations of C. glaucophylla are endangered in New South Wales, and are characterised by infrequent recruitment. We examined recruitment patterns of C. glaucophylla in differential grazing exclosures (excluding rabbits, excluding large herbivores or excluding both) and in unfenced areas. More recruitment occurred in rabbit-proof exclosures, compared with nearby large herbivore and control exclosures, although some rabbit-proof exclosures recorded no recruitment. Increases in recruitment at several long-term exclosures were associated with wet periods, as was recruitment at some unfenced sites. Apart from grazing and rainfall, recruitment was related to mature tree size and stand density (probably because of their influence on seed availability). These endangered arid C. glaucophylla woodlands are all that remains of a once extensive distribution, and are habitat for a suite of threatened species. Reduction in grazing pressure, particularly from rabbits, is clearly critical to maintain recruitment in these remnant populations. Chances of recruitment appear to be enhanced in low-density stands, around large trees, and in dune blow outs – fencing should focus on these areas.

Additional keywords: Callitris glaucophylla, cypress pine, desert, rabbits, regeneration, seedlings.


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