Tropical forests naturally regrow quickly, but without species variety | 3/7/2019 | Staff
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Tropical forests are threatened by high levels of deforestation, mostly driven by agricultural expansion. But, once agricultural fields are abandoned, they tend to naturally regrow, leading researchers to ask whether that process reverses species loss and brings native species back.

An international team of ecologists inventoried trees in 1,800 tropical forest plots located in 56 sites across 10 countries in Latin America, and found that forests recover growth in a few decades, but that it may take centuries before the abundance of the species present returns to the what is found in old-growth forests. Secondary forests now make up as much as 28 percent of the land area in Latin America.

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Tree species found in regrowing forests are usually different from those in neighboring old-growth forest, according to the paper published in Science Advances. After 20 years of regrowth, only 34 percent of the original species composition recovered.

Researchers used plot data from secondary forests of different ages and compared it to neighboring, well-conserved, old-growth forests. The team included UConn professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology Robin Chazdon, and colleagues across Europe and Latin America.

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"It is great news that natural regeneration can restore tree biodiversity relatively fast," says Chazdon. "However, targeted restoration actions for the introduction of typical old-growth species, as well as the conservation of old-growth forests, may be necessary to guarantee long-term conservation of tropical tree species."

This study has direct implications for forest restoration policies and practice. Natural forest regeneration has typically been viewed...
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