Testing heterogeneity-diversity relationships in tropical forest restoration.

Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, 95064, USA, .
Oecologia (Impact Factor: 3.25). 03/2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00442-013-2632-9
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Restoring small-scale habitat heterogeneity in highly diverse systems, like tropical forests, is a conservation challenge and offers an excellent opportunity to test factors affecting community assembly. We investigated whether (1) the applied nucleation restoration strategy (planting tree islands) resulted in higher habitat heterogeneity than more homogeneous forest restoration approaches, (2) increased heterogeneity resulted in more diverse tree recruitment, and (3) the mean or coefficient of variation of habitat variables best explained tree recruitment. We measured soil nutrients, overstory and understory vegetation structure, and tree recruitment at six sites with three 5- to 7-year-old restoration treatments: control (no planting), planted tree islands, and conventional, mixed-species tree plantations. Canopy openness and soil base saturation were more variable in island treatments than in controls and plantations, whereas most soil nutrients had similar coefficients of variation across treatments, and bare ground was more variable in control plots. Seedling and sapling species density were equivalent in plantations and islands, and were substantially higher than in controls. Species spatial turnover, diversity, and richness were similar in island and plantation treatments. Mean canopy openness, rather than heterogeneity, explained the largest proportion of variance in species density. Our results show that, whereas canopy openness and soil base saturation are more heterogeneous with the applied nucleation restoration strategy, this pattern does not translate into greater tree diversity. The lack of a heterogeneity-diversity relationship is likely due to the fact that recruits respond more strongly to mean resource gradients than variability at this early stage in succession, and that seed dispersal limitation likely reduces the available species pool. Results show that planting tree islands facilitates tree recruitment to a similar degree as intensive plantation-style restoration strategies.

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    ABSTRACT: Secondary forests comprise an increasing area of the tropics and play an important role in global carbon cycling. We compare above-ground biomass accumulation of both planted and naturally regenerating trees, as well as C in the top soil layer, in three restoration treatments replicated at 14, six to eight year old restoration sites in southern Costa Rica. Restoration strategies include: control (no planting), planting tree islands, and conventional, mixed-species tree plantations. We evaluate the importance of past land-use, soil nutrients, understory cover, and surrounding forest cover in explaining variation in above-ground biomass accumulation (ABA) rate across sites. Total ABA and planted tree ABA rate were highest in plantations, intermediate in islands, and lowest in control treatments, whereas ABA rate of naturally regenerating trees did not differ across treatments. Most ABA in plantations (89%) and islands (70%) was due to growth of planted trees. Soil carbon did not change significantly over the time period of the study in any treatment. The majority of across-site variation in both total and planted tree ABA rate was explained by duration of prior pasture use. Tree growth in the first two years after planting explained approximately two-thirds of the variation in ABA rate after 6–8 years. Soil nutrient concentrations explained relatively little of the variation in planted or naturally recruiting ABA rate. Our results show that planting trees substantially increases biomass accumulation during the first several years of forest recovery in former agricultural lands and that past-land use has a strong effect on the rate of biomass accumulation. Planting tree islands is a cost-effective strategy for increasing ABA and creating more heterogeneous habitat conditions than tree plantations. We recommend small scale planting trials to quickly assess potential biomass accumulation and prioritize sites for ecosystem service payments for carbon sequestration.
    Forest Ecology and Management 05/2014; 319:36–43. · 2.67 Impact Factor


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May 28, 2014