Survival, reproduction, and recruitment of woody plants after 14 years on a reforested landfill

George R. Robinson, Steven N. Handel, Victoria R. Schmalhofer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


With the advent of modern sanitary landfill closure techniques, the opportunity exists for transforming municipal landfills into urban woodlands. While costs of fullscale reforestation are generally prohibitive, a modest planting of clusters of trees and shrubs could initiate or accelerate population expansions and natural plant succession from open field to diverse forest. However, among woody species that have been screened for use on landfills, these ecological potentials have not yet been investigated. We examined a 14-yr-old landfill plantation in New Jersey, USA, established to test tolerance of 19 species of trees and shrubs to landfill environments. We measured survivorship, reproduction, and recruitment within and around the experimental installation. Half of the original 190 plants were present, although survival and growth rates varied widely among species. An additional 752 trees and shrubs had colonized the plantation and its perimeter, as well as 2955 stems of vines. However, the great majority (>95%) of woody plants that had colonized were not progeny of the planted cohort, but instead belonged to 18 invading species, mostly native, bird-dispersed, and associated with intermediate stages of secondary plant succession. Based on this evidence, we recommend that several ecological criteria be applied to choices of woody species for the restoration of municipal landfills and similar degraded sites, in order to maximize rapid and economical establishment of diverse, productive woodlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-271
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


  • Landfills
  • Plant reproduction
  • Plant succession
  • Restoration ecology
  • Seed dispersal
  • Woody plants


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