We assessed survival and growth of transplanted saplings of understory broad-leaved trees (Oreopanax xalapensis, Rapanea juergensenii, Rhamnus sharpii and Ternstroemia lineata) and canopy conifers (Abies guatemalensis, Pinus ayacahuite and P. pseudostrobus) into Grassland (GR), Mid-Successional Oak Forest (MS), and Old-Growth Oak Forest (OF) stands in the central highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. A total of 727 plants were monitored over eight years. The results suggest habitat preferences of the studied species that should be considered for their conservation oriented management. Conifers had highest survival and growth in GR, while broad-leaved trees survived better under sparse canopy in MS, but grew tallest in full light. Saplings of all species in dense canopy sites in OF were smaller, and the survival of conifers was lower. An integrated response index (IRI) calculated for each species with survival and relative growth rates showed similar trends. Re-introduction of the endangered A. guatemalensis is possible in open habitats if fire, trampling and grazing are suppressed. Open habitats in current man-made landscapes in the highlands of Chiapas may limit the establishment of understory trees requiring partial shade. Inclusion of such species in restoration programs has not been usual so far; yet, local and global interest in native species for such programs is increasing. Information on the response of these kind of species in contrasting habitats may help to incorporate them in the management of high-diversity forests that may follow pine plantations.
Abbreviations: EBH = Estación Biológica Huitepec; GR = Grassland; IRI = Integrated Response Index; MS = Mid-Successional Oak Forest; OF = Old-Growth Oak Forest; PPF = photosynthetic photon flux; RGR = relative growth rate.