Pascarella J.B.

Forest Regeneration in a chronosequence of tropical abandoned pastures: implications for restoration ecology

Forest Regeneration in a chronosequence of tropical abandoned pastures: implications for restoration ecology

Abstract: 
During the mid-1900s, most of the island of Puerto Rico was deforested, but a shift in the economy from agriculture to small industry beginning in the 1950s resulted in the abandonment of agricultural lands and recovery of secondary forest. This unique history provides an excellent opportunity to study secondary forest succession and suggest strategies for tropical forest restoration. To determine the pattern of secondary succession, we describe the woody vegetation in 71 abandoned pastures and forest sites in four regions of Puerto Rico. The density, basal area, aboveground biomass, and species richness of the secondary forest sites were similar to those of the old growth forest sites (>80 yr) after approximately 40 years. The dominant species that colonized recently abandoned pastures occurred over a broad elevational range and are widespread in the neotropics. The species richness of Puerto Rican secondary forests recovered rapidly, but the species composition was quite different in comparison with old growth forest sites, suggesting that enrichment planting will be necessary to restore the original composition. Exotic species were some of the most abundant species in the secondary forest, but their long-term impact depended on life history characteristics of each species. These data demonstrate that one restoration strategy for tropical forest in abandoned pastures is simply to protect the areas from fire, and allow natural regeneration to produce secondary forest. This strategy will be most effective if remnant forest (i.e., seed sources) still exist in the landscape and soils have not been highly degraded. Patterns of forest recovery also suggest strategies for accelerating natural recovery by planting a suite of generalist species that are common in recently abandoned pastures in Puerto Rico and throughout much of the neotropics.

Hurricane Disturbance Alters Secondary Forest Recovery in Puerto Rico

Flynn DFB, Uriarte M, Crk T et al (2009) Hurricane disturbance
alters secondary forest recovery in Puerto Rico.
Biotropica 42:149–157

Abstract: 
Land-use history and large-scale disturbances interact to shape secondary forest structure and composition. How introduced species respond to disturbances such as hurricanes in post-agriculture forest recovery is of particular interest. To examine the effects of hurricane disturbance and previous land use on forest dynamics and composition, we revisited 37 secondary forest stands in former cattle pastures across Puerto Rico representing a range of exposure to the winds of Hurricane Georges in 1998. Stands ranged from 21 to480 yr since agricultural abandonment and were measured 9 yr posthurricane. Stem density decreased as stands aged, while basal area and species richness tended to increase. Hurricane disturbance exerted contrasting effects on stand structure, contingent on stand age. In older stands, the basal area of large trees fell, shifting to a stand structure characteristic of younger stands, while the basal area of large trees tended to rise in younger stands with increasing hurricane disturbance. These results demonstrate that large-scale natural disturbances can alter the successional trajectory of secondary forest stands recovering from human land use, but stand age, precipitation and soil series were better predictors of changes in stand structure across all study sites. Species composition changed substantially between census intervals, but neither age nor hurricane disturbance consistently predicted species composition change. However, exposure to hurricane winds tended to decrease the abundance of the introduced tree Spathodea campanulata, particularly in smaller size classes. In all sites the abundance of the introduced tree Syzygium jambos showed a declining trend, again most strongly in smaller size classes, suggesting natural thinning through succession.
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