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Repeated Selective Cutting Controls Neotropical Bracken (Pteridium arachnoideum) and Restores Abandoned Pastures

  • Karla Aguilar-Dorantes (a1), Klaus Mehltreter (a1), Heike Vibrans (a2), Martin Mata-Rosas (a3) and Valentín A. Esqueda-Esquivel (a4)...

Abstract

Neotropical bracken fern invades disturbed forests and burned and abandoned pastures in Latin America, inhibiting the growth of associated vegetation and altering community structure. Cutting of all aboveground vegetation every 6 to 12 mo has proven to be inefficient as a control method. We studied the impact of selective cutting of bracken every 2 mo, shading, and a combination of cutting + shading during 14 mo in a bracken-dominated, abandoned pasture in Veracruz, Mexico. At the end of the experiment, cutting with or without shading drastically reduced bracken cover from >90% to less than 1%, decreased leaf number from 18 to fewer than two leaves per m2, and depleted bracken leaf biomass. The significant reduction of bracken was correlated with a significant 3.9- to 5.7-fold increase in richness of other plant species. Cutting without shading was the only treatment that significantly reduced rhizome biomass to less than 62% of control plots, whereas cutting + shading was the only treatment to promote a significant increase in both cover and shoot biomass of successional plant species. Selective cutting of P. arachnoideum repeated every 2 mo was more successful than nonselective cuttings repeated at longer intervals, because it removed newly emerging leaves before their complete expansion and supported the recovery and reestablishment of other plant species, which may help to control bracken. Although costs for the first year of selective cutting were twice as much as for nonselective cutting, it may prove less expensive and more efficient than nonselective cutting in the long term.

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Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail: kmehltreter@gmail.com

References

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