Understanding microsite preferences of species at the sapling stage is crucial for successful forest restoration, as efforts can be concentrated onto the most promising sites, and invaded sites can be manipulated toward more suitable conditions for target species. The Hawaiian Lowland Wet Forest is a highly endemic and endangered ecosystem that has received limited attention in terms of research on recruitment dynamics. Our study combined density records and sapling-based measurements within a forest reserve, an invaded forest, a traditional restoration project and a novel restoration project. We recorded substrate type, soil depth, surface roughness, and light availability for 382 saplings of the four native tree species Metrosideros polymorpha, Myrsine lessertiana, Pipturus albidus, and Psychotria hawaiiensis, and 146 spots where the target species were absent. The invaded forest had the lowest native sapling density, lower light availability, and lower surface roughness than the remaining management units. The novel restoration project had more moss/nurselog sites and higher light availability than the remaining management units. The traditional restoration project was mainly characterized by rocky substrate. Metrosideros and Pipturus showed significantly higher light demand than Myrsine and Psychotria. Pipturus was associated with rough microsites and Metrosideros with moss/nurselog substrates. Our findings suggest that restoration strategies considering manipulation of the canopy light environment and microsite preferences of target species can better facilitate native recruitment into heavily invaded forests.
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Vol. 75 • No. 1