Does weeding promote regeneration of an indigenous tree community in felled pine plantations in Uganda?
The use of plantations to manage extensive tracks of deforested lands in the tropics is a conservation strategy that has recently received considerable attention. Plantation trees can promote seed dispersal by attracting dispersers and creating favorable site conditions, leading to increased germination and establishment of indigenous trees. Subsequently, plantation trees can be harvested for profit or left to senesce, leaving a native tree community. We evaluated the effect of vine, grass, and shrub cutting (weeding) over a 3-year period on regeneration of indigenous trees subsequent to the removal of plantation softwoods in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Counter to what would be expected if weeding released trees from competition, we found no difference in the total number of stems or in the stems greater than 10 cm diameter at breast height between control and weeded plots; there were more stems greater than 1 cm diameter at breast height in the control plots. For species found in both control and weeded plots, the maximum size of individuals did not differ. At the end of the study, 61 species were found in the control plots and 43 species were found in the weeded plots, and in both types of plots the three most abundant species were the same. The number of species and stems classified as early or middle successional species did not differ between weeded and control plots. The fact that weeding did not promote regeneration of indigenous trees after the removal of plantation trees illustrates the importance of evaluating and field-testing potential management options.