Seedbed and moisture availability determine safe sites for early Thuja occidentalis (Cupressaceae) regeneration

Am J Bot. 2000 Dec;87(12):1807-14.

Abstract

Regeneration of many late-successional tree species depends on specialized safe sites. The primary objective was to investigate the roles of seedbed and moisture retention as dimensions of safe sites for the early regeneration of drought-sensitive northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis). We hypothesized that rates of germination, survival, and growth of T. occidentalis are unlikely to differ among seedbed types under conditions of abundant water, but that differences are likely to emerge as water becomes more limited. In a 67-d greenhouse experiment, cedar seeds were sown on logs, leaf litter, and soil of cedar and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) canopy origin. Seedbeds were subjected to three water treatments. Among the water treatments, highest germination rates occurred within the high water treatment, although germination on cedar litter was comparable to that of the low water treatment. Higher germination and survival rates occurred on decayed logs than other natural seedbeds for medium (P = 0.001) and low (P < 0.0001) water treatments. Germination on birch logs occurred at higher rates than on cedar logs within the low water treatment (P = 0.04). Seedling growth for the medium water treatment was lower on leaf litter than any other type of seedbed (P < 0.01). Results generally demonstrated that the interplay between seedbed and moisture retention is a component of safe sites for T. occidentalis regeneration.