Nurse-plant and mulching effects on three conifer species in a Mexican temperate forest.
Nurse-plant effects have been used as an effective reforestation and restoration strategy, and mulching has also effectively ameliorated soil-adverse conditions. However, use of nurse plants is limited by the presence of suitable nurse species before trees are planted, and use of mulching depends on availability of appropriate materials. The effects of Lupinus elegans as a nurse plant and pine-bark mulch were tested on three conifer species: Pinus montezumae, Pinus pseudostrobus, and Abies religiosa. We tested if nurse-plant type effects occurred if the lupines and the conifers were planted simultaneously. Overall survival was 53%, and significant differences among species were found. Survival regardless of cover type was significantly higher (P<0.01) for P. pseudostrobus 17-month-old seedlings at planting (81%), followed by P. montezumae 7-month-old seedlings at planting (71%), P. pseudostrobus 7-month-old seedlings at planting (42%) and finally A. religiosa 7-month-old seedlings at planting (17%) the differences among the treatments were significant (P<0.01). As a soil shading agent, lupines had a significant effect (P=0.02), because they increased survival of P. pseudostrobus and A. religiosa, the effect of mulching with pine bark was not significant. The effects of a shading agent on growth differed among species. In particular lupines reduced height and stem diameter for P. montezumae and P. pseudostrobus, between 22% and 33%, and had no effect on growth of A. religiosa. The positive effects of the simultaneous planting of L. elegans on the survival of the trees suggests that nurse-plant facilitation can be used in areas where no suitable nurse plants are already present.