Species-site matching in mixed species plantations of native trees in tropical Australia

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Manson, DG, Schmidt, S, Bristow, M, Erskine, PD & Vanclay, JK 2013, 'Species-site matching in mixed species plantations of native trees in tropical Australia', Agroforestry Systems, vol. 87, no. 1, pp. 233-250.

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Mixed species plantations using native trees are increasingly being considered for sustainable timber production. Successful application of mixed species forestry systems requires knowledge of the potential spatial interaction between species in order to minimise the chance of dominance and suppression and to maximise wood production. Here, we examined species performances across 52 experimental plots of tree mixtures established on cleared rainforest land to analyse relationships between the growth of component species and climate and soil conditions. We derived site index (SI) equations for ten priority species to evaluate performance and site preferences. Variation in SI of focus species demonstrated that there are strong species-specific responses to climate and soil variables. The best predictor of tree growth for rainforest species Elaeocarpus grandis and Flindersia brayleyana was soil type, as trees grew significantly better on well-draining than on poorly drained soil profiles. Both E. grandis and Eucalyptus pellita showed strong growth response to variation in mean rain days per month. Our study generates understanding of the relative performance of species in mixed species plantations in the Wet Tropics of Australia and improves our ability to predict species growth compatibilities at potential planting sites within the region. Given appropriate species selections and plantation design, mixed plantations of high-value native timber species are capable of sustaining relatively high productivity at a range of sites up to age 10 years, and may offer a feasible approach for large-scale reforestation.