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Neotropical secondary forest succession: changes in structural and functional characteristics

by M R Gauriguata, Rebecca Ostertag, Manuel R Guariguata
Forest Ecology and Management ()
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In this review we highlight the main biotic and abiotic factors that\ninfluence the patterns of Neotropical secondary forest successions,\nreferred as the woody vegetation that regrows after complete forest\nclearance due to human activities. We focus on both patterns of specie\nreplacement and various processes that occur during succession, and\nsuggest that the sequence of processes may be predictable even if\nspecies composition is not. We describe forest recovery with respect\nto old-growth conditions, which we define as the structure, function,\nand composition of the original forest before conversion, and we\nexamine this recovery process within the context of type and intensity\nof past land use. The various phases of the recovery process are\ndescribed in derail: from factors affecting early colonization, changes\nin light and soil properties, soil-vegetation feedbacks at initial\nand later successional stages, biomass accumulation, forest productivity,\nrates of species accumulation, and species composition. The consensus\nof these analyses is that the regenerative power of Neotropical forest\nvegetation is high, if propagule sources are close by and land use\nintensity before abandonment has not been severe. Nevertheless, the\nrecovery of biophysical properties and vegetation is heavily dependent\non the interactions between site-specific factors and land use, which\nmakes it extremely difficult to predict successional trajectories\nin anthropogenic settings. We attempt, throughout this review, to\nintegrate the structural and functional characteristics of secondary\nsuccession as a way to enhance our ability both to predict and manage\nsuccessional forest ecosystems due to their increasing importance\nas timber sources, providers of environmental services, and templates\nfor restoration purposes. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights\nreserved

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