Demography of the invasive shrub Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) at Barrington Tops, New South Wales: Insights for management

P.O. Downey, J.M.B. Smith

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Abstract

The exotic shrub Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) has invaded large areas of eucalypt woodland at Barrington Tops, New South Wales, where it forms dense stands that have significant impacts on vegetation structure, flora and fauna. Data are presented from four 25 m2 plots, which have been studied since 1985. Two plots were located in uniform broom thickets of different ages, and two were located across the margins of broom stands, which have since expanded to cover the entire plots. All broom plants in the plots (other than young seedlings, which were counted) were mapped, tagged and monitored annually. New seedlings appeared annually, but there was no relationship between their numbers (varying between years) and subsequent recruitment of older plants. The probability of seedlings reaching first flowering was less than 2%, and of surviving to mature size (>10 cm2 basal area) was negligible. Seedlings mainly died through suppression (shade). Individuals less than 50 cm high were also browsed. Recruitment occurred only where light levels were high, either before closure of the broom canopy or after senescence had led to canopy opening. From approximately 12-30 years after initial invasion, broom stands underwent self-thinning of mature plants, accelerated by collapse of plants on to each other. Recruitment of new, maturing plants, after this period produced a stand that was less dense than that found after initial invasion. Broom is creating more disturbance-prone environments due to its impacts on other biota, likely alterations to the fire regime, and by harbouring feral pigs. Further disturbance favours broom, and elsewhere it has resulted in massive seedling regeneration. While fire or other disturbance can be used to stimulate germination, and thereby reduce a large part of the soil seed bank, denser broom infestations are likely to result unless follow-up treatments can be applied over long time periods. A wiser management option, at least in the short term, may be avoidance of all disturbance, especially for stands of mature broom.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)477-485
Number of pages9
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

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