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Combining ecological, social and technical criteria to select species for forest restoration


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QuestionHow to evaluate and integrate relevant ecological, social and technical criteria to select species to be introduced in restoration projects of highly diverse ecosystems such as tropical riparian forests. LocationRiparian forest, Marqués de Comillas municipality, southeast Mexico (16°54′N, 92°05′W). Methods We proposed a ‘species selection index’ (SSI) using five independent criteria related to ecological, social and technical information. SSI targeted species that (1) are important in the reference forest; (2) are less likely to establish following disturbance; (3) are not specific to a particular habitat; (4) are socially accepted; and (5) their propagation requires a reasonable time and financial investment. SSI may range between zero and 50, with higher values meaning higher potential for restoration purposes. ResultsOut of a local pool of 97 species, we identified 30 target tree species that together represented >60% of total importance value index in the reference riparian forests. SSI averaged 28.3 ± 1.0 over the studied species, suggesting that species with high values are not frequent. For 20 species, reintroduction by means of active forest restoration was deemed necessary. Species that established through natural regeneration, following secondary regrowth, had lower social value among local farmers. Nearly half of the identified species showed technical constraints for easy propagation and seeding. Conclusions The proposed procedure is useful for selecting species to initiate forest restoration projects and of other woody ecosystems that harbour high biodiversity, and is suitable for several stakeholders interested in restoration.
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Applied Vegetation Science
Combining ecological, social and technical criteria to
select species for forest restoration
Paula Meli, Miguel Mart
ınez-Ramos, Jos
ıa Rey-Benayas & Julia Carabias
Indicators; Mexico; Natural regeneration;
Propagation; Re-vegetation; Social value;
Tropical riparian forest
ınez, E., Ramos, C.H., & Chiang, F. 1994.
Lista flor
ıstica de la Lacandona, Chiapas.
ın de la Sociedad Bot
anica de M
Received 6 August 2013
Accepted 11 December 2013
Co-ordinating Editor: Joerg Ewald
Meli, P. (corresponding autor, Natura y
Ecosistemas Mexicanos A.C., San Jacinto 23-D,
Col. San
Angel, M
exico D.F., 01000, M
( Centro de
Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad
Nacional Aut
onoma de M
exico, Antigua
Carretera a P
atzcuaro No. 8701, Morelia,
an, 58190, M
Rey-Benayas, J.M. (
Departamento de Ciencias de la Vida,
Universidad de Alcal
a, Edificio de Ciencias,
a de Henares, Madrid, 28871, Spain
Carabias, J. (
Departamento de Ecolog
ıa y Recursos
Naturales,Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad
Nacional Aut
onoma de M
exico, Av.
Universidad 3000, Circuito Exterior S/N, M
D.F., 04510, M
Question: How to evaluate and integrate relevant ecological, social and techni-
cal criteria to select species to be introduced in restoration projects of highly
diverse ecosystems such as tropical riparian forests.
Location: Riparian forest, Marqu
es de Comillas municipality, southeast Mexico
(16°54N, 92°05W).
Methods: We proposed a ‘species selection index’ (SSI) using five independent
criteria related to ecological, social and technical information. SSI targeted spe-
cies that (1) are important in the reference forest; (2) are less likely to establish
following disturbance; (3) are not specific to a particular habitat; (4) are socially
accepted; and (5) their propagation requires a reasonable time and financial
investment. SSI may range between zero and 50, with higher values meaning
higher potential for restoration purposes.
Results: Out of a local pool of 97 species, we identified 30 target tree species that
together represented >60% of total importance value index in the reference
riparian forests. SSI averaged 28.3 1.0 over the studied species, suggesting
that species with high values are not frequent. For 20 species, reintroduction by
means of active forest restoration was deemed necessary. Species that estab-
lished through natural regeneration, following secondary regrowth, had lower
social value among local farmers. Nearly half of the identified species showed
technical constraints for easy propagation and seeding.
Conclusions: The proposed procedure is useful for selecting species to initiate
forest restoration projects and of other woody ecosystems that harbour high bio-
diversity, and is suitable for several stakeholders interested in restoration.
The re-establishment of native plant species is a wide-
spread tool in ecological restoration, but in many ecosys-
tems, such as forests in the humid tropics, the large
regional species pool makes it difficult to effectively iden-
tify target species for restoration projects. Thus, a system-
atic approach is desirable to screen the widest possible
range of native taxa for possible inclusion in restoration
programmes (Knowles & Parrotta 1995). Species selection
requires extensive background studies, and sometimes
monitoring of hundreds of species over several years
(Knowles & Parrotta 1995; Blakesley et al. 2002a,b; Elliott
et al. 2003). However, restoration projects usually require
short-term results with limited economic resources. There-
fore, once the main objectives of restoration efforts based
on a census of all stakeholders have been defined, the gen-
eration of a list of target species for re-vegetation (Brudvig
& Mabry 2008) should be accomplished.
There is a wide variety of criteria to select target species
for forest restoration. These depend on the ecosystem to be
restored and the particular needs of each project. For
example, in Australia and Thailand, the ‘framework spe-
cies method’ (FSM) selected species with ecological prop-
erties, such as (1) high survival and growth rates in
degraded sites; (2) dense crowns that shade out herbaceous
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Doi: 10.1111/avsc.12096©2014 International Association for Vegetation Science
weeds; (3) provision of resources that attract seed dispersal
vertebrates at early restoration age; and (4) germination
traits enabling easy propagation in nurseries (Blakesley
et al. 2002a,b; Elliott et al. 2003). In India (Sharma &
Sunderraj 2005) and Brazil (dos Santos et al. 2008), spe-
cies were selected based on their natural regeneration
capacity. However, besides ecological criteria, other criteria
related to social acceptance and technical feasibility for
propagation are required to optimize identification of suit-
able native species for restoration.
We distinguished tree species that were passively
restored by natural regeneration from those requiring
active restoration in a previous study based on ecological
criteria, namely dominance and regeneration potential
(Meli et al. 2013a). However, given that biodiversity con-
servation and ecological restoration must embody societal
values to improve their success (Garibaldi & Turner 2004),
it is critical to recognize and take into account the cultural
perceptions and acceptance of the species used in restora-
tion projects. Successful restoration actions need the par-
ticipation of local stakeholders, and the potential of species
to be used in such actions should be evaluated not only on
the basis of their ecological traits, but also on criteria that
consider both social benefits and technical limitations,
such as germination and propagation requirements under
nursery conditions. In this study, we propose a procedure
to select target species for forest restoration projects, which
is illustrated by a case study related to restoration of Neo-
tropical riparian forest. This work does not constitute a
framework for implementing restoration activities (SER
2004). Rather, it pursues (1) the identification of the spe-
cies pool at a reference ecosystem; (2) the selection of spe-
cies from this pool based on ecological, social and technical
criteria that are considered relevant for restoration; and
(3) the integration of such criteria into a single and opera-
tional species selection index (SSI). It aims to link the ecol-
ogy and management of degraded forests and to be
suitable for implementation by various stakeholders in for-
est restoration efforts. We also discuss the potential imple-
mentation of the proposed procedure in other ecosystem
types and in scenarios with uneven information availabil-
ity related to social values and technical requirements. We
finally provide some suggestions that could be addressed in
future studies of species selection for restoration of tropical
riparian forests and other species-rich ecosystem types.
Study site
We conducted this study at the Marqu
es de Comillas
municipality (16°54N, 92°05W), Selva Lacandona region,
southeastern Mexico. The climate is typically hot (25 °C
annual mean), with a mean annual precipitation of ca.
3000 mm and a short dry season (<100 mmmo
between January and April. Due to its diversity of soil
types, heterogeneous topography (Siebe et al. 1995) and
complex fluvial network, several tropical ecosystems are
present in this municipality but rain forest is the dominant
one. Although the Maya and other human groups inhab-
ited and abandoned this municipality more than 500 years
ago, human colonization restarted in the early 1970s,
when governmental programmes encouraged immigra-
tion, and this settlement has been portrayed as spontane-
ous and unorganized (De Vos 2002). Former old-growth
forest has been extensively converted to agricultural fields.
Deforestation also includes riparian vegetation, which
impacts both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Marqu
de Comillas adjoins Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve
across the Lacant
un River, and contains a complex net-
work of permanent and temporal streams. Therefore, the
conservation of remnant old-growth forest in the region
has been recognized as of high priority, both in Mexico
and Guatemala (Mendoza & Dirzo 1999).
Procedure and criteria
To obtain a list of target species for the re-vegetation of
riparian degraded zones, we considered five criteria that
are based on ecological, social and technical information
(Table 1).
1 Natural species dominance (D). This criterion evaluates
dominance of individual species in the reference forest,
which in our case was represented by six sites with pristine
old-growth riparian forest. Sites were identified through
prospective routes along stream-sides. We estimated rela-
tive density, relative frequency and relative basal area of
all woody species with DBH 0.5cmalonga50910 m
transect parallel to the stream in each site. Basal area was
estimated using the DBH and the formula p*(DBH*0.5)
assuming a circular shape of the stem cross plane. For each
transect and species, we calculated an importance value
index (IVI) as the sum of relative density, relative fre-
quency and relative basal area of a species divided by three
(Curtis & McIntosh 1951). The measured IVI
was used as
an indicator of D, and adopted values between 0 and 100.
2 Natural regeneration potential (NRP). This criterion
evaluates the potential of the species to re-establish after
disturbance, and was first elaborated in Meli et al.
(2013a). To quantify NRP, we used five sites representing
the typical secondary riparian forest. This secondary forest
grew on sites formerly covered with old-growth forest sim-
ilar to the studied reference forest that was totally defor-
ested and abandoned later. Age of the secondary forest
sites varied between 3 and 10 yrs. In equal transects
(50 910 m each) to reference forest sites, we obtained for
every species abundance (N
, number of stems of species i
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Selecting species for forest restoration P. Meli et al.
per transect) in each of ten DBH classes (range:
0.5>50 cm, class intervals: 5 cm). For each transect and
species, we calculated the correlation (Spearman rank cor-
relation, r
+1)] and the mid-
point of the DBH classes (hereafter called abundancesize
correlation). A high NRP is represented by a diminishing
number of individuals as diameter sizes increase; this
change will result in a significant negative correlation and
therefore an acceptable potential for passive establishment
of the species (Meli et al. 2013b). A null or a positive corre-
lation for a particular species indicates that it does not
establish naturally (i.e. lack of regeneration) and, there-
fore, it needs to be actively restored or reintroduced. We
focused on the last kind of species considering that in our
study site the establishment of some species could be
impeded or slowed by physical, chemical or biological bar-
riers (Holl 2007). The NRP is a continuous variable that
varied between 1and1.
3 Habitat breadth (H). This criterion is a surrogate of the
ability of the species to develop in habitats of different geo-
morphology, which differ in soil and topographical proper-
ties. We assumed that species found in more habitats have
higher ability to establish after disturbances. Selecting
those species with higher habitat breadth implies selecting
generalist species, which may be detrimental for riparian
specialist species. However, we envisage the selection of
generalist species as an initial restoration step that will lead
to the rapid establishment of an initial canopy, thus creat-
ing environmental conditions for the re-establishment of
specialist species in a later step. This criterion selects wide-
spread, but not necessarily abundant, species. We used
data from 14 permanent 20 9250 m plots that were pre-
viously established within five geomorphological units
that differed in soil and topography in pristine rain forest:
floodplain, karst, alluvial, savanna and low-hill rain forest
(Siebe et al. 1995). We then counted the units where each
species occurred. As H is an ordinal criterion, it ranged
between zero and 5.
4 Social value (SV). This criterion identifies locally salient
species that shape the perceptions of local people with
respect to (1) the natural abundance of the species in the
riparian forest (in a rank of zero to 5); and (2) the local val-
ues of species for provision of food, materials, medicine
and/or cultural practices (Garibaldi & Turner 2004). These
two components of the SV in our study are comparable
because the number of different use types never exceeded
four (see below). The information related to these two
aspects was confirmed from participatory interviews with
farmers in four local communities. In groups of four or five
persons each, they shared photos of the 30 species with
highest IVI
at reference forest sites (App. S1). Farmers
were also consulted about other suitable species for ripar-
ian restoration that were not included in the previous list.
The SV was calculated as the rank of abundance plus the
number of local use types; as SV was an ordinal variable, it
took values >0.
5 Technical constraints (Tc). We collected seeds in the
field, and germinated and propagated them in a nursery
for all available species of those selected 30 species with
highest IVI
at reference forest sites, and then scored these
species. This criterion identifies cost-effective techniques
for successful species propagation. We used our own data
in an adapted scoring system from Knowles & Parrotta
(1995) that included three aspects with three categories
each: (1) ease of seed collection (combining seed size and
dispersal syndrome: large and zoochorous, small and
zoochorous, and small and anemochorous/hydrochorous;
note that seed availability is included in this component of
Tc); (2) seed germination treatment requirements (none,
mechanical and chemical treatment); and (3) alternatives
for introduction in the field (direct seeding, wildlings/
stumps, seedlings produced in nurseries; App. S2). The
categories received numerical values (13), with higher
values for the easiest/lowest cost option and lower values
for the most difficult/expensive options. These three values
were added; as Tc was an ordinal variable, it ranged
between 3 and 9.
For all abbreviations used see App. S3.
Assembling the index
Considering that some criteria were continuous and others
were ordinal, and that they varied at different scales, to
make them comparable we calculated the Zscore for each
criterion by obtaining the difference between a datum
value and the mean of the variable and dividing this differ-
ence by the SD. Finally, we divided these individual Z
scores into ten classes, from <2and>2, with 0.5 class
Table 1. Species selection criteria included in the proposed procedure.
Criteria Indicator Information type
Natural dominance (D) Importancevalue index (IVI
Natural regeneration potential (NRP) Spearman rank correlation ofabundance across size classes (r
Habitat breadth (H) Occurrence in five geomorphological units Ecological
Social value (SV) Natural abundance in riparian systems and local use according to social perception Social
Technical constraints (Tc) Ease of propagation (seed collection +germination +introduction alternatives) Technical
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P. Meli et al. Selecting species for forest restoration
intervals. We assigned a value of 0 to the lowest class and
10 to the highest class. We considered all criteria equiva-
lent and calculated SSI using the following formula:
SSI =D+NRP +H+SV +Tc. This SSI is an ordinal vari-
able that ranges between 0 and 50.
To explore possible relationships among the five criteria,
we performed non-parametric correlations (Spearman r
across the normalized data (Zscores) of all criteria.
Criteria values
A total of 97 species were found in the reference forests, of
which Ficus sp. had the maximum IVI
(11%) and only ten
species had an IVI
>2% (Table S1). We found 92 species in
the disturbed forests, of which Dialium guianense had the
maximum IVI
(5%) and only 14 species had an IVI
(Table S2). The first 15 species accumulated 50% of total
IVI in the reference sites (Fig. 1a) and 48% in the dis-
turbed sites (Fig. 1b). We restricted all our analysis to those
30 species that showed the highest IVI
in the reference
sites, which together covered >60% of the total commu-
nity IVI.
Eight out of these 30 dominant species showed negative
abundancesize correlation coefficients (r
<0.6, P<
0.05), which suggested that passive restoration could be
sufficient for their successful establishment (Table S3).
Twelve species did not occur at disturbed sites and ten spe-
cies showed a non-significant abundancesize correlation,
thus hinting at the necessity of introducing them by means
of active restoration.
More than half of the species occurred in three or four
geomorphological units (54%), whereas nine species
occurred in one or two (30%), and only three species
(Brosimum alicastrum,D. guianense,Protium copal) occurred
in all geomorphological units (10%; Fig. 2, Table S3). Two
sampled species (6%) were totally absent in the five geo-
morphological units (Miconia glaberrima and Nectandra sle-
Farmers recognized most of the species (80%; App. S1).
Ten species (33%) were recognized in all cases, while
seven species (23%) were mostly unknown. In general,
farmers notably distinguished Lacant
un river valley and
stream banks (our reference ecosystem) as environments
with different hydrologic dynamics, soil types and species
composition. According to their perception, only Inga vera,
D.guianense and Albizia leucocalyx (4% of the species) were
abundant in riparian ecosystems (Fig. 3). Most species
(70%) were considered of low to medium abundance, and
only two species (Blepharidium mexicanum,Eugenia mexica-
na) were considered absent. There was no agreement
about the abundance of five species (8%), namely E.nigri-
ta,Jacataria dolichaula,Licania platypus,M.glaberrima and
N. reticulata. The relative species abundance denoted by
farmers was not correlated (r
=0.0414, P=0.8475)
with the species abundance recorded in the reference site
surveys (App. S1).
Most species (41%) were used only for timber (i.e. fuel-
wood, fence posts, handles, boards and shelves) and five
species (17%) had two use types besides timber (i.e. medi-
cine and fodder). Only B. alicastrum had four use types:
timber, food, medicine and fodder. Eleven species (38%)
were reported as not used by local people.
Species producing seeds that were considered easy to
collect represented 40% of the 30 species. A total of 53%
of the species were deemed easy to propagate, with no pre-
sowing treatment or only a simple mechanical scarification
required (App. S2). However, we did not have suitable
information about the appropriate introduction method
for 33% of the species. Finally, 43% of the species attained
aTcvalue>5, which could be a limitation when attempt-
ing to reintroduce native vegetation on disturbed sites.
Selection index and species selected
We calculated the SSI for the list of the 30 target woody
species to restore disturbed riparian zones (Table 2). SSI
was normally distributed, with a mean (SE) of
28.3 1.0, and ranged between 18 and 43. Less than half
of the species (43%) scored an SSI higher than the mean.
The species with the lowest SSI values were those with
null SV (i.e. not used or accepted by the local farmers).
We found a significant negative correlation only
between the natural regeneration potential (NRP) and the
social value (SV; r
=0.7036, P=0.0008), suggesting
that those species that naturally established following sec-
ondary regrowth have lower social value among local
farmers than those species that need to be actively
Criteria for species selection
Natural dominance was the first criterion that we used for
species selection. We targeted selection of woody species to
initiate forest restoration projects. Although tropical ripar-
ian ecosystems contain other than woody species, these
species can: facilitate the establishment of other plants
(Parrotta et al. 1997) when their architecture (e.g. leaf and
canopy area) buffers harsh abiotic conditions (Meli & Dirzo
2013); attract seed dispersers when having fresh fruits
(Slocum 2001); and outcompete (typically) shade-intoler-
ant grasses through reducing their cover (Zimmerman
et al. 2000). They also provide organic matter to the ripar-
ian soil and promote shore stabilization in the medium-
term through their dense roots (Meli et al. 2013b). All
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Selecting species for forest restoration P. Meli et al.
these characteristics may be also considered as species
selection criteria in forest restoration projects, but their
inclusion will depend mainly on the ecological condition
of the degraded ecosystem, and should be complemented
with other criteria, as we have shown in this work.
Once the restoration project has been established, it is
necessary to consider a wider range of species to fill under-
represented niches with other life forms (e.g. herbs, palms
and ferns) and with rare, endangered, endemic and/or
riparian specialist species, and thus to improve the struc-
ture and function of the riparian forest (Meli et al. 2013a)
and promote higher diversity and functional redundancy
(Brudvig & Mabry 2008). This will ensure the effectiveness
of critical ecological processes that sustain ecosystems
(Society for Ecological Restoration International Science &
Policy Working Group (SER) 2004).
10% Number of
Fig. 2. Proportion of species out of the 30 studied native tree species
occurring in different numbers of geomorphological units found in
es de Comillas.
Importance value index (%)
Importance value index (%)
Fig. 1. Importance value index (IVI) of species accounting for >60% of total IVI in the six riparian reference forests (a) and in the five disturbed or secondary
growth riparian forests (b).
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P. Meli et al. Selecting species for forest restoration
We used natural regeneration potential as the second
criterion. The predictive potential of the abundancesize
correlations for selecting target species from disturbed sites
could be limited by the small sample size, and hence
decrease as their age increases and its species composition
starts to resemble that of the reference sites (Meli et al.
2013a). However, the typically low species abundance in
highly diverse humid tropics makes it difficult to perform
accurate correlations without higher statistical power.
Assessing some preferred ecological characteristics of
target species is a different way to estimate the potential for
establishment. For example, longevity, resistance to herbi-
vores or physical damage, and tolerance to flooding in the
case of riparian systems, could also be important features
for assessing the potential for establishment. These features
focus on the species responses to particular abiotic or biotic
factors. Some of these ecological features are indirectly
included in our habitat breadth score, since generalist spe-
cies may have life-history and functional attributes to cope
with biotic and abiotic environmental filters better than
specialist species (Young et al. 2005).
Young fallows such as those we surveyed to estimate
the NRP are not always present in areas where restoration
is being planned, but they are good sites to identify poten-
tial species for passive restoration purposes at the initial
stages of restoration efforts (Meli et al. 2013a). In subse-
quent stages of the restoration project, other sites such as
older regeneration patches and other ecological species
characteristics could be used.
Our target species list is useful to restore typical dis-
turbed riparian forests in the studied region, including
those human-disturbed sites that were abandoned recently
(with minimal natural regeneration) or long ago (with
substantial natural regeneration). Unlike Brudvig & Mabry
(2008), we did not consider the species of the regional pool
that were already established at the disturbed sites because
they may not be the most suitable species in social or eco-
nomic terms when degradation is not very severe, as was
the case in our study. The ability of such species to establish
naturally in degraded areas is high, and therefore it may be
more appropriate to use these species for restoration of
severely degraded lands, such as mined sites (Parrotta &
Knowles 2001; Sharma & Sunderraj 2005) or sites highly
susceptible to erosion on steep slopes (dos Santos et al.
2008). Seed size and dispersal mechanism syndromes have
also been used to understand which species might require
active re-establishment and which might passively recolo-
nize degraded sites (Pausas & Lavorel 2003). For example,
regenerating species in disturbed sites are frequently those
with small seeds, which are widely dispersed (Chazdon
et al. 2007). We believe that regeneration indices (cf. dos
Fig. 3. Proportion of species out of the 30 studied native tree species
occurring at six rank abundance categories according to local people’s
perceptions found in Marqu
es de Comillas. See main text for details on
rank abundance calculation.
Table 2. Species selection index (SSI) values for 30 woody species tar-
geted for re-vegetation of riparian forest in Marqu
es de Comillas. The SSI
integrates standardized values (categories of Z-values, see text for details)
of Natural dominance (D), Natural regeneration potential (NRP), Habitat
breadth (H), Social value (SV) and Technical constraints (Tc).
Species D NRP H SV Tc SSI
Dialium guianense 810 99 743
Brosimum alicastrum 66 99 838
Brosimum costarricanum 610*76 837
Ficus sp.10 9 2 8 7 36
Cojoba arborea 10 6 4 5 7 32
Vochysia guatemalensis 57 78532
Trophis racemosa 410*66 632
Albizia leucocalyx 58 38731
Ampelocera hottlei 63 76931
Calophyllum brasiliense 56 76731
Licania platypus 510*66 431
Posoqueria latifolia 510*65 531
Guarea glabra 53 76829
Protium copal 73 96328
Castilla elastica 53 66727
Hirtella americana 44 75727
Pouteria durlandii 55 76 427
Swartzia simplex 510*35 427
Blepharidium mexicanum 45 64726
Inga vera 45 39526
Eugenia negrita 410*70526
Quararibea yunckerii 410*36 326
Nectandra reticulata 510*60 425
Miconia argentea 45 46524
Jacaratia dolichaula 410*60 424
Croton schiedeanus 52 65523
Eugenia mexicana 56 40 520
Licaria capitata 410*40 220
Nectandra sanguinea 510*10420
Miconia glaberrima 410*10 318
*Species absent in disturbed forest and therefore considered to need
active reintroduction (high NRP values).
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Selecting species for forest restoration P. Meli et al.
Santos et al. 2008) are more accurate indicators of these
two types of species. Although not all second-growth for-
ests have recolonized degraded sites, and some species may
be adapted to several forms of degradation (e.g. degraded
soils, fires and weed infestations), the regeneration poten-
tial is a good indicator of the potential use of the species for
restoration purposes.
Habitat breadth was the third criterion. We found that
half of the species were present in at least three geomor-
phological units, suggesting that these species could estab-
lish in the riparian forest as in other ecosystem types. Few
species showed high habitat breadth for a particular unit,
and only A. leucocalyx was present in the floodplain and
should be re-established in riparian restoration sites in our
case study. The occurrence of species at particular habitats
is implicitly related to their recruitment niche and should
be strongly linked to ecological restoration projects. Many
species can persist as adults in a far broader niche than that
into which they can successfully recruit (Young et al.
2005) because habitat associations of adults do not neces-
sarily emerge at early life stages (Comita et al. 2007). Res-
toration activities may broaden the dispersal or
recruitment niche through translocation of propagules and
assisted establishment, and create non-regenerating popu-
lations by planting saplings where adults can develop but
seeds fail to germinate or seedlings have limitations to
establish themselves (Young et al. 2005).
Social value was the fourth criterion and a salient con-
tribution of our proposed procedure for restoration. Our
selected species were socially accepted or, at least, had
some appraisal or utility for local people, mostly for timber.
However, selecting only socially valuable species may put
at risk their establishment in the harsh conditions of a
degraded site. Non-pioneer species are a typical case of this
situation, but in the humid tropics they show high plastic-
ity in their growth rates and often establish successfully
when they are directly transplanted to open sites, even
when these sites have not been previously colonized by
pioneer species (Mart
ınez-Garza et al. 2005). Monitoring
field performance of these socially valuable species will be
crucial in restoration projects.
Although it is not the case in our study, the number of
use types could be much larger than abundance classes,
making these two components not comparable. In such
cases, averaging the normalized score in a single SV could
be a way to obtain a single SV value. Another option could
be using rank abundance and use types as separated val-
Interestingly, the species abundance denoted by local
farmers (social information) was not correlated with the
actual species abundance recorded in the reference sites
(ecological information; App. S1). At the same time, we
found that those species that are naturally established
following secondary regrowth had the lower social value
among local people. This is an unusual outcome, consider-
ing that in other tropical regions the young, second-
growth forests have high utilitarian as well as conservation
value and will likely become important sources of timber
and non-timber forest products (Chazdon & Coe 1999;
Vœk 2004; Gavin 2009). This emphasizes the need for fur-
ther research on flora uses among local people, both in
pristine and secondary riparian forest. The fact that people
did not recognize the species by their abundance or ecolog-
ical dominance does not mean that they do no actually use
these species. Other criteria such as utility should be analy-
sed to evaluate the accuracy of our correlation to reflect
real local uses in the region.
Local knowledge collected by interviews is important
and useful to make local people pro-active participants at
all stages of restoration practice (Blakesley et al. 2002b).
Snapshot questionnaires may not reveal the species prefer-
ences of the local communities, but we believe they do
reflect the farmer’s perception, as we infer from other pre-
vious participatory interviews that were conducted since
our conservation project started several years ago.
Supply of ecosystem services (i.e. supporting, regulating,
provisioning and cultural services) is directly related to
human well-being (MEA 2005). Any woody species can
supply more than one supporting and regulating service
(e.g. habitat provision, carbon fixation, soil retention and
many others). Thereby, the differences among these spe-
cies are mostly related to their supply of provisioning or
cultural services, and thus the use of species by local people
could be a surrogate for such services.
Technical constraints for propagation and introduction
of target species were the fifth criterion. This criterion con-
siders ease of seed collection, germination and alternatives
for introduction. Seed availability is indirectly included
when valuing the ease to collect seeds of different sizes
from fruits showing variable dehiscence. However, species
phenology and dioecism (seeds produced only by female
trees) also affect seed availability, especially of mast-fruit-
ing species. Further research about these characteristics of
the 30 selected species would provide important informa-
tion to estimate and value the entire spectrum of efforts to
obtain enough seeds and will be considered as surrogate
variables to score technical constraints in our riparian res-
toration project in the future.
While local people may be interested in propagating
native species for their reintroduction in many restoration
projects, this propagation may be time-consuming and
expensive. Consequently, it is important to select species
that are easily propagated, since local communities cannot
implement techniques that are costly or hazardous (e.g.
use of acid for seed scarification). Research is needed to
better understand the technical constraints to propagate
Applied Vegetation Science
Doi: 10.1111/avsc.12096©2014 International Association for Vegetation Science
P. Meli et al. Selecting species for forest restoration
and reintroduce native species, including species identifi-
cation and studies of fruiting phenology, seed germination
and nursery practice (Knowles & Parrotta 1995). Re-vege-
tation projects should emphasize the importance of this
information. Lack of information underestimates the
rating of some species but also guides future research on
species propagation for restoration purposes. This high-
lights the ‘adaptability’ of our procedure. Species could be
selected on the basis of one or two criteria and, at the same
time, they could generate useful information about the
other criteria.
Seeds from species classified as difficult to propagate
should not be collected in the first stages of the restoration
project, as it would be more efficient and less costly to
locate and transplant saplings from the forest (Knowles &
Parrotta 1995). However, the conservation status of some
target species may restrict this technique, because a threa-
tened or endangered species may not bear additional
reduction in its population through harvesting (Garibaldi
& Turner 2004). Also, reintroduction may be a successful
strategy for overcoming dispersal limitations but may not
reflect adult establishment (Turnbull et al. 2000); thus, the
performance of transplanted species in the field should be
included in our Tc index in future stages of the restoration
project (Knowles & Parrotta 1995; Elliott et al. 2003).
Species selection index
The criteria used to constitute the SSI appear to be inde-
pendent and complementary, as we found hardly any sig-
nificant correlation among them. Thus, ideally, they
should be used simultaneously or at least in groups of two
or three. We considered all five criteria to be equivalent
when assembling the SSI. However, as discussed above,
when species establishment faces hard ecological limita-
tions, ecological criteria could be more important than the
technical or social ones (Sharma & Sunderraj 2005; dos
Santos et al. 2008). Technical criteria could be considered
most important when there are monetary or time con-
straints, whereas social criteria are essential and should be
prioritized when there is no consensus among ecological
and social interests. Thus, priority ranking of species in
Table 2 could be re-ordered following these criteria (e.g.
ecological priority, social priority and technical feasibility
priority) in different restoration scenarios. The SSI average
was near the median value, suggesting that species with
high SSI were not frequent. At the same time, some species
showed very low SSI due to lack of information, which
highlights the dependence of the SSI on information avail-
The proposed procedure is useful to minimize costs and
maximize efficiency in selecting species for forest restora-
tion so that it can be attractive to different stakeholders. It
can also be applied to the screening and selection of woody
species from a wide spectrum of other tropical and temper-
ate regions. It is useful where trees are dominant, but its
use would be limited in grasslands or other ecosystem
types where species regeneration is difficult to estimate
(Meli et al. 2013a). Further research is needed to select
appropriate species to suit the specific ecological require-
ments in other ecosystem types.
Finally, the most appropriate methodology to select tar-
get species for restoration will strongly depend on the main
objectives of any particular project. Other criteria could be
considered in the selection of target species in other case
studies, including adaptive capacity to different soils (Shar-
ma & Sunderraj 2005), other social values (cf. Moreno-
Cassasola& Pardowska 2009) or attributes such as dispersal
syndromes (Sansevero et al. 2009). Technical constraints
may be the most useful criterion in practical terms because
these can increase the costs (time, labour, materials
needed) of the restoration projects, but social criteria
should be included in all restoration efforts (Garibaldi &
Turner 2004).
We proposed a procedure to target species for forest resto-
ration projects that leans on five criteria related to ecologi-
cal, social and technical information. A major strength of
this procedure is that the five criteria are independent and
can be used separately in projects with different goals.
Importantly, social information based on local perception
is usually neglected in restoration projects. The high num-
ber of woody species found in the reference sites indicates
that the regional species pool for riparian restoration is
wide. To facilitate practical restoration, we identified a pre-
liminary list of tree species that are most suitable for their
reintroduction into degraded riparian zones in our study
region and similar ecological and social settings (Brudvig &
Mabry 2008).
A list of target species must be identified and used for
the initial stages of restoration of ecosystems dominated by
trees. However, the species selection criteria will depend
on the main goals of the restoration project and on infor-
mation availability. In human-dominated ecosystems or
agricultural landscapes, prioritizing social and technical cri-
teria to select species for restoration is crucial for restora-
tion sustainability. Our procedure could be adapted to
different social and ecological conditions and be enriched
as new information is generated.
We thank C. M
endez and G. Jamangap
e for field
assistance. We are very grateful to M. Gonz
alez and
Applied Vegetation Science
8Doi: 10.1111/avsc.12096 ©2014 International Association for Vegetation Science
Selecting species for forest restoration P. Meli et al.
J.A. Parrotta for comments on an early draft of this
paper. R. Chazdon and an anonymous reviewer greatly
improved the content and presentation of a previous
version of this manuscript. A Rufford Small Grant for
Nature Conservation was provided to P.M. (40.11.09).
Pemex and the WWF-FCS Alliance supported Natura.
JMRB thanks projects CGL2010-18312 (Spanish Minis-
try of Science and Education) and S2009AMB-1783
REMEDINAL-2 (Madrid Government). MMR thanks
to CONACyT, FMCN and PAPIIT-UNAM for grants
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supporting information
Additional supporting information may be found in the
online version of this article:
Appendix S1. Participatory interviews with local com-
munities and social value data.
Appendix S2. Technical constraints, methods and data.
Appendix S3. List of abbreviations.
Table S1. Species list in the reference sites.
Table S2. Species list in the disturbed sites.
Table S3. Data on importance index, natural regeneration
potential and habitat breadth.
Applied Vegetation Science
10 Doi: 10.1111/avsc.12096 ©2014 International Association for Vegetation Science
Selecting species for forest restoration P. Meli et al.
... However, many degraded forests may require active reforestation, specifically the planting of trees. Ensuring that planted trees survive is not a simple task, and entails multiple ecological, economic and social considerations (Di Sacco et al., 2021;Meli et al., 2014). Selecting which tree species to plant represents a central consideration and depends upon Abstract 1. Degraded tropical peatlands lack tree cover and are often subject to seasonal flooding and repeated burning. ...
... drainage, fires, kerapah, mounding, native species, oceanic Niño index, palms, revegetation, tropical peatland, weeding the goal of the restoration project, while being constrained by logistical issues such as seed availability (Chechina & Hamann, 2015;Meli et al., 2014). Trial and error through pilot trials, local knowledge and accumulated past experience helps guide species selection (Chechina & Hamann, 2015;Graham et al., 2017). ...
... Knowledge of planted tree species survival and growth, natural regeneration potential (i.e. animal-dispersal) and socio-economic value have enabled the development of species selection frameworks that guide restoration of tropical forests (Chechina & Hamann, 2015;Elliot et al., 2013;Meli et al., 2014). In addition to survival and growth rates addressed in this review, developing a species framework to reforest degraded TPSF in Southeast Asia requires knowledge on species' flooding tolerance (and/or microtopographic preference), nutrient acquisition strategies (e.g. ...
... The reforestation of native plant species requires a systematic background study in order to re-establish a highly diverse ecosystems such as riparian forests. A variety of ecological criteria can be applied to select target species for reforestation depending on the type of ecosystem to be restored and the particular goals of the project (Meli et al., 2014). Other criteria related to social acceptance and technical suitability also need to be considered for a better identification of the species that are suitable for the reforestation projects. ...
... Other criteria related to social acceptance and technical suitability also need to be considered for a better identification of the species that are suitable for the reforestation projects. The participation of related environment agencies, forestry experts, governmental bodies and local stakeholders is required to ensure the success of forest regeneration using suitable native species (Meli et al., 2014). According to Meli et al (2014), the combination of ecological, social and technical criteria for the selection of species are explained as follows (pg.745-746): ...
... The participation of related environment agencies, forestry experts, governmental bodies and local stakeholders is required to ensure the success of forest regeneration using suitable native species (Meli et al., 2014). According to Meli et al (2014), the combination of ecological, social and technical criteria for the selection of species are explained as follows (pg.745-746): ...
In attempts to mitigate the negative impacts of future climate conditions, several measures have been suggested and implemented including reforestation. The changing of climate has caused major alteration in hydrological system. The aim of this research is to investigate the impacts of large-scale reforestation on flood risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Greater Manchester, in collaborating with the Northern Forest Project. Along with secondary review study, a spatial distribution modelling approach using Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing (RS), climate reconstruction method and semi-structured interviews were applied in this research. Spatial distribution maps of woodland cover and flood risk area generated and land use mapping integrated deeper investigation of current woodland distribution and identification of potential reforestation area. Discussion with two environment agencies were organized to obtain more information and knowledge regarding current progress of tree planting strategy. A significant increase in woodland cover with slight reduction of flood risk area were modelled and studied. The finding also provided detailed criteria for the selection of suitable species to be planted in regards of flood risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Supported by review study, reforestation could reduce peak flow while providing multiple benefits to human being and ecosystems as a way to adapt future climate conditions. To ensure the success of tree planting strategy, detailed planning and continuous monitoring could be done regularly by responsible authorities in order to achieve its objectives.
... Selecting which tree species to plant should be based on previously recorded performance, or on the functional traits that predict performance, to maximise ecological and social benefits (Rodrigues et al., 2009;Meli et al., 2014). Survival of planted trees is paramount, and using local species from the reference ecosystem confers the benefits of local adaptation. ...
... This may take the form of cash payments for environmental services to encourage landowner participation (Pirard et al., 2014). It also means that restoration projects must be designed to meet community needs, such as selecting tree species that will ultimately provide shade, timber, honey, firewood or other product with values for the community (Meli et al., 2014) or, alternatively, choosing a plantation-style planting design to accommodate landowner aesthetic preferences . ...
Full-text available
Restoring the structural complexity and functional diversity of tropical rainforest is not possible in human time scales but knowledge of the process has significantly increased over the past three decades. Strategies to restore tropical forests must build on theories of community assembly and succession, as well as understanding of both the local ecological and human communities. In this chapter, we discuss three long-term tropical forest restoration case studies in Australia, Costa Rica, and Thailand, each using specific approaches tailored to overcome local ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic constraints. Differences are apparent in the intensity of restoration intervention adopted to manage ecological issues, and in the way local cultures, prevailing socioeconomic conditions, and therefore costs can influence outcomes. Based on the unifying threads identified, we detail key factors essential to recovering tropical biodiversity whilst protecting the livelihoods of landholders on whose land restoration is most likely to occur.
... Selecting which tree species to plant should be based on previously recorded performance, or on the functional traits that predict performance, to maximise ecological and social benefits (Rodrigues et al., 2009;Meli et al., 2014). Survival of planted trees is paramount, and using local species from the reference ecosystem confers the benefits of local adaptation. ...
... This may take the form of cash payments for environmental services to encourage landowner participation (Pirard et al., 2014). It also means that restoration projects must be designed to meet community needs, such as selecting tree species that will ultimately provide shade, timber, honey, firewood or other product with values for the community (Meli et al., 2014) or, alternatively, choosing a plantation-style planting design to accommodate landowner aesthetic preferences . ...
For successful restoration of wetland and riparian systems, we need to recognise several key points: Wetland systems exist because of, and are governed by hydrology, so hydrological restoration is imperative. Wetlands always have been and need to be temporally and spatially variable, changes in flow and water availability are natural; so restoration of those characters are necessary for successful wetland restoration. Wetlands are closely linked to their surrounding environment as a water and nutrient source; where possible they should be restored in relation to whole landscape restoration. Wetland systems can be resilient and are capable of recovery to a functioning state; the recovery goal, appropriate methods, available resources and subsequent management and monitoring are vital to success.
... Despite having low biological priority values due to landscape-scale factors, local community involvement in restoration in these less isolated areas can be easier, and of utmost importance (Tedesco et al. 2023). For instance, in the southeast of the "Montes Azules" NPA, intensive community-based efforts have been implemented for restoration and conservation (Meli et al. 2014). Community commitment has resulted in the successful restoration of fragmented riparian forests along the riverside, establishing connections between this vegetation, conservation zones, and areas designated for sustainable activities, all while ensuring active social participation. ...
Ecological restoration requires a holistic view of the interconnectedness between degraded areas, remaining ecosystems, and the repercussions of land use and other socioeconomic costs. In this study, we analyze how biological priorities for restoration change when ecological, social, and economic feasibility are considered. A multi-criteria approach was used to prioritize restoration areas, using the Mexican side of the transboundary Grijalva-Usumacinta basin (78,831 km 2) as a study model, one of Mexico's most important regions, thanks to its hydrology, biology, and social conditions. Fourteen indicators of biological value and feasibility for restoration were identified. The results showed that when considering only biological factors (B scenario), 9.35% of the basin area had high or very high priority for restoration within or near natural protected areas (NPAs). When including feasibility (B + F scenario), the area with high to very high priority values for restoration increased to 34.3%. This means that many feasible areas had medium or low biological priority for restoration, and consequently, in many cases, there is a tradeoff between the possible biological recovery versus viability derived mainly from socioeconomic factors. Without discerning where restoration can offer the most pronounced ecological and socioeconomic benefits, efforts risk being misdirected or squandered. This approach provides a suitability assessment useful for decision-makers and stakeholders because it generates a more complete picture of opportunities and threats to make a final selection of priority areas for intervention.
... Species selection for forest restoration by direct seeding is more complex and challenging (Meli et al., 2014) than it is for conventional tree planting. Previous species-selection studies were based on seed characteristics, such as seed-coat thickness and seed size (Tunjai and Elliott, 2012). ...
... However, before a potentially good shrub-nurse plant species can be used as a keystone species in restoration programs we must be able to propagate it. Unfortunately, for many ecosystems information on how to germinate the seeds of native species that would be good nurse plants and keystone species is not available (Elliott et al. 2003;Meli et al. 2014). ...
Full-text available
In degraded forest ecosystems, reintroduction of keystone-woody species is an important step for restoration because it provides regeneration niches. However, lack of information on how to propagate species restricts the use of native species; specially in tropical dry forests where seed germination is seasonal and is synchronized with the onset of the wet season. We evaluated the dormancy-breaking and germination requirements of nine keystone-woody species from Dry Chaco Forest. Most fresh viable seeds of the keystone species are nondormant, but viability decreases during dry-cold storage restricting the use of some species. Seeds of three keystone species germinated to higher percentages in light than darkness and those of five species germinated equally well in light and darkness; seeds of Castela coccinea germinated to higher percentages in darkness than in light. Alternating vs. constant temperatures had no effect on germination in seven species. Seeds of Aniso-capparis speciosa and Cynophalla retusa were nondormant and remained viable for only 1 month during cold-dry storage; and 62-95% of the seeds of the other seven species were nondormant. Dormancy-break was studied in five of the seven species; seeds of four species had physiological dormancy and one had physical dormancy. Dormancy-breaking was promoted by environmental conditions in the habitat, i.e. warm stratification, after seed dispersal. Castela coccinea, Achatocarpus praecox, Mimosa detinens, and Capparicordis tweedieana are the most suitable keystone species for the restoration of overgrazed areas in the Dry Chaco Forest because their seeds germinate to a high percentage and retain viability during dry storage at low temperatures. Seeds of Mimosa detinens and Capparicordis tweedieana required mechanical scarification and 6-weeks of warm stratification, respectively , for dormancy-break.
... (3) Restoration plans should include not only species with characteristics that guarantee the success of the restoration (Elliott et al., 2003;Meli et al., 2014) but also rare and vulnerable species. Our list of species classified into different forms of rarity and vulnerability classes (Table S1) can contribute to the achievement of these strategies. ...
Full-text available
Although a growing body of literature recognises the importance of rarity for biodiversity conservation, it is unclear how the interaction of different forms of rarity, extrinsic causes of extinction, and protection affect species’ vulnerability. Here we addressed the extinction vulnerability of 2203 shrub and tree species of the South American savanna (SAS). For this, species were attributed a form of rarity, a synergistic risk index (SRI), and a protection index (PI). The SRI combines three extrinsic causes of extinction (climate hazard, fire frequency, and human footprint). The PI is the ratio between the number of a species occurrences within protected areas and the total number of occurrences in the SAS. By combining the SRI and PI, we classified common and rare species into five vulnerability classes. Some regions of the SAS show high values of climate hazard, fire frequency, human footprint, and SRI. Each extrinsic cause of extinction is differently distributed across the SAS and shows no or low spatial congruence with the SRI. Many species show a low ratio of occurrences within PAs, which in combination with high SRI results in high vulnerability to extinction. Surprisingly, the number of common species in the higher vulnerability classes is higher than of rare species. Common and rare species in different vulnerability classes occur in somewhat different locations across the SAS and mainly constitute spatially incongruent centres with high species richness. Given our results, we propose that strategies for the effective conservation of SAS species are challenging and must be carefully designed.
Full-text available
Conservation and recovery of degraded areas generate great demand for seeds of native tree species. The development and/or improvement of efficient techniques for the evaluation of forest-seed quality is important for the production and establishment of high-quality seedlings for restoration. In this study, the tissue density of radiographic images of Senna macranthera seeds was related to their physiological quality. Moreover, biomass, carbon stock, seedling survival, and X-ray technique costs were estimated for S. macranthera. Collected seeds were analyzed using digital radiography to measure relative and integrated density. The physical integrity of seed tissues was visually evaluated. Seeds were then germination tested to assess seedling development-related traits. Semiautomated radiography allowed for visualizing internal seed structures and observing their density and physical-integrity differences as well as physiological quality. Moreover, seed lots with lower relative and integrated densities had more physical damage and/or malformation, thus producing less vigorous seedlings. The average carbon stock was 21.42 kg per tree. The seed selection cost was USD 0.0132/seed at an 81% germination rate. The annual cost of planting S. macranthera seedlings was USD 7500 per hectare during the establishment year and averaged USD 1562 per year for replanting lost transplants over the eight years after initial planting. Applying these techniques may enhance the seedling production of this species, contributing to reforestation programs in Brazil.
Full-text available
The tropical dry forest is an ecosystem under strong human pressure. It is found both inland and on coastal dunes. The objective of this research is to identify native tree and palm species growing on dunes that are used by local communities. In this research we carried out surveys and interviews among residents of San Isidro and Colonia La Mancha, in the coast of Veracruz on the use of trees of the tropical dry forest on dunes. Among the 55 registered species, Cedrela odorata, Diphysa robinioides, Enterolobium cyclocarpum, Bursera simaruba, Gliricidia sepium, Tabebuia rosea, Chrysobalanus icaco, Guazuma ulmifolia, Acacia cochliacantha, Brosimum alicastrum, Bumelia celastrina, Cocos nucifera, Maclura tinctoria, Piscidia piscipula, Spondias mombin and Ficus spp. were mentioned by more people. Eighteen uses were recorded, being the most frequent construction of houses (119 mentions), posts for fences and live fences (99), firewood (72) and food (48). Four of the uses mentioned refer to environmental services provided by these plants in the dunes. The species with higher number of uses is Gliricidia sepium and Bursera simaruba is the species in which more parts are used, followed by Gliricidia sepium, Guazuma ulmifolia and Brosimum alicastrum. We also inquired about the parts of the tree being used, the frequency, their sale and local price. Based on the results we suggest a group of species that can be used to increase species tree richness in the secondary growths and grassland on dunes, which will provide wood, forage, etc., to the local inhabitants and help maintain the tree cover of the dunes.
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One hundred and sixty taxa of upland moist forest trees were studied with reference to their suitability for forest restoration on bauxite mined lands in western Para State, Brazil. Over a 14-year period, field observations in native primary forests, nursery studies, and evaluations of over 600 ha of mixed-species reforestation areas were used to characterize fruiting phenology, dispersal and seed viability, to determine the most cost-effective propagation methods, and to assess the post-plantation performance for each of the taxa studied. The systematic approach adopted in this study for screening large numbers of native tree species for which little or no ecological or silvicultural information was previously available is presented as a model for species selection and afforestation programme management, with broad applicability for forest rehabilitation and restoration worldwide.
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A list of 3400 species of vascular plants from the Lacandona region in Chiapas, Mexico, is presented. This number comprises 78.8% of the total of species of vascular plants estimated for the region. The data were obtained from the identified material collected by the first author, from herbarium specimens, and from bibliographic sources. Some taxa not previously recorded for the region are pointed out, and the most common synonyms are included. A delimitation and geographic description of the region are provided, as well as some data on the vegetation and the explorations carried out therein. -English summary
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Question:Does the presence of grasses affect the establishment (survival and growth) of tree saplings in an abandoned tropical pasture, and what is the potential of established saplings to modify pasture microenvironmental conditions, particularly light incidence? LocationAbandoned cattle pasture, in the humid tropics of SE Mexico (18°25′–18°45′ N, 95°00′–95°18′ W). Methods The establishment of four native fast-growing tree species in a tropical abandoned pasture was evaluated. Saplings of Cecropia obtusifolia, Hampea nutricia, Omphalea oleifera and Erythrina folkersii were transplanted using a split-plot design. Plant survival and growth were evaluated over 12 mo under two experimental treatments: presence and absence of grasses. Light incidence at ground level was used to evaluate microclimate conditions under the grass matrix, compared to light incidence under saplings established in the pasture. ResultsSaplings had high survival (49–88%) regardless of the presence of grasses. In the presence of grasses, growth of surviving saplings either increased or was not impacted, and in only one out of eight comparisons did grasses negatively affect growth. The impact of saplings on light incidence in abandoned pastures depended on sapling species architecture: species with large total leaf area and canopy area ( H. nutricia and E. folkersii) significantly reduced light incidence (12–29% of total incidence), while narrow-canopy species ( C. obtusifolia and O. oleifera) generated less intense shade (37–89% of total incidence). Conclusions Grasses did not seem to represent a crucial limiting factor in sapling establishment of fast-growing native species in the short term. In addition, shading by recruited saplings of some native species could be important to out-compete grasses in the future, as well as for ‘facilitating’ regeneration of more shade-tolerant species. Transplantation of fast-growing native saplings into abandoned pastures, even without manipulation of the grasses, could be a useful practice for landscape-scale restoration programmes in tropical areas. Evaluation of the longer-term consequences (beyond the 1-yr span of this study) warrants further research.
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Los ecosistemas ribereños proveen funciones ecológicas esenciales, que redundan en la provisión de servicios ecosistémicos (SE) de gran importancia para la sociedad, como son el control de inundaciones y la depuración y provisión de agua para el consumo humano. Las actividades de origen antrópico degradan estos ecosistemas y, en consecuencia, implican una pérdida de sus servicios. Un meta-análisis global indicó que la restauración ecológica favorece la recuperación de los SE en promedio en un 36 % y éstos pueden incluso alcanzar niveles similares a los de ecosistemas naturales, dependiendo el resultado del tipo de ecosistema y del servicio en cuestión, siempre y cuando la degradación inicial no supere ciertos umbrales. En un estudio sobre la recuperación de servicios ribereños en Marqués de Comillas, una zona rural del trópico húmedo de México, se introdujeron plántulas de siete especies arbóreas nativas en diez parcelas experimentales con el fin de recuperar la vegetación ribereña para proveer hábitat, favorecer el restablecimiento de interacciones bióticas y aumentar la diversidad y la productividad primaria. Después de un año, la supervivencia resultó del 26 % en promedio, y la presencia de invertebrados y aves en las riberas sugiere un proceso de restauración incipiente. Sin embargo, estos esfuerzos de restauración no serán exitosos si no son acompañados por un marco legal eficaz y eficiente. La incorporación de los ecosistemas ribereños como un componente específico del paisaje, en el marco de la legislación ambiental y de la implementación de instrumentos de gestión, es crucial para su conservación.
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In revegetation projects, distinguishing species that can be passively restored by natural regeneration from those requiring active restoration is not a trivial decision. We quantified tree species dominance (measured by an importance value index, IVIi) and used abundance–size correlations to select those species suitable for passive and/or active restoration of disturbed riparian vegetation in the Lacandonia region, Southern Mexico. We sampled riparian vegetation in a 50 × 10–m transect in each of six reference (RE) and five disturbed (DE) riparian ecosystems. Those species representing more than 50% of total IVI in each ecosystem were selected, and Spearman rank correlation between abundance and diameter classes was calculated. For eight species, it was determined that passive restoration could be sufficient for their establishment. Another eight species could be transplanted by means of active restoration. Five species regenerate well in only one ecosystem type, suggesting that both restoration strategies could be used depending on the degree of degradation. Finally, two species were determined to not be suitable for restoration in the RE (based on the above selection criteria) and were not selected during this initial stage of our restoration project. The high number of tree species found in the RE suggests that the species pool for ecological restoration is large. However, sampling in both ecosystem types helped us reduce the number of species that requires active restoration. Restoration objectives must guide the selection of which methods to implement; in different conditions, other criteria such as dispersal syndrome or social value could be considered in the species selection.
We define seed limitation to be an increase in population size following seed addition. Here, we briefly consider how theoretical models deal with seed limitation and how seed sowing experiments can be used to unravel the extent of seed limitation in natural systems. We review two types of seed addition experiments: seed augmentation studies where seeds are added to existing populations; and seed introductions where seeds are sown in unoccupied sites. Overall, approximately 50% of seed augmentation experiments show evidence of seed limitation. These studies show that seed limitation tends to occur more commonly in early successional habitats and in early successional species. Most of the studies have concentrated on simply categorising populations as seed‐ or microsite‐limited, but we believe that seed sowing experiments could be used to reveal much more about community structure, and we discuss possible future directions. In 53% of introduction studies (where seeds were sown at sites from which the species was known to be absent) the introduced species was recorded in at least one of the experimental sites following sowing. However, of the subset of studies where both seedlings and adult plants were recorded, 64% of sites contained seedlings while only 23% contained adults. This implies that, for many species, conditions for establishment are more stringent than conditions for germination. The successful establishment of plants in unoccupied patches indicates the potential for immigration to enhance local diversity (the spatial mass effect). Few studies continued monitoring for long enough to determine whether or not self‐sustaining populations were successfully established, and no study attempted to link introduction sites to a putative natural source of propagules, or considered the dynamics of the metapopulation as a whole.
In a Neotropical pasture, I predicted that two characteristics of trees, type of fruit produced and amount of shade cast, would affect recruitment and growth of woody plants underneath them. I also predicted that woody plants that persisted in active pasture would affect the species assemblages under trees after pasture abandonment. To investigate these hypotheses, I examined the assemblages of recruits under several types of trees in active pasture and also under similar trees that were fenced off (enclosed) to simulate abandoned pasture. The trees were Ficus spp. (fleshy fruits, deep shade), Pentaclethra macroloba (dry fruits, deep shade), Cecropia spp. (fleshy fruits, sparse shade), and Cordia alliodora (dry fruits, sparse shade). Recruitment into "open" pasture plots (i.e., without trees) was also examined. In active pasture, the species assemblage of woody recruits depended on the tree under which they grew. The assemblage under Ficus was dense and diverse, under Cecropia and Cordia it was moderately dense and diverse, in open pasture it was sparse and species-poor, and under Pentaclethra it was dominated by its own seedlings. These patterns were found in the enclosed pasture as well, apparently because woody plants that had survived in the active pasture continued to grow after "abandonment." However, after enclosure, many new plants also became established, such that the enclosed pasture plots had almost twice as many woody plants and species as the active pasture plots. Growth of woody plants was most rapid under trees with the least shade (Cecropia, Cordia) and in open pasture. In contrast, growth of recruits was slower under the much shadier Ficus, and thus, in the initial stages of succession, Ficus appeared not to be as important a "recruitment focus" for woody plants. Growth of recruits under the equally shady Pentaclethra was also slow, but Pentaclethra seedlings readily established just outside the canopies of parent trees, where they grew quickly and created dense, monospecific stands. The results of this study suggest that patterns of early succession to forest after pasture abandonment will depend on the kinds of trees found in the pasture. Persistent woody recruits under trees in active pasture constitute sources of advanced regeneration that will substantially affect forest succession after pasture abandonment.