Article

Protocol for Monitoring Tropical Forest Restoration

Abstract

Monitoring protocols are needed to evaluate the millions of hectares of land that are being proposed for forest restoration in the coming decades. Standardized proposals are critical to evaluate efficacy of restoration strategies, identify triggers for corrective actions, compare results across projects, and generally learn from past projects to inform future restoration efforts. We describe an iterative process, including over 200 stakeholders, to develop a protocol for monitoring Brazilian Atlantic Forest restoration. We give an overview of the ecological, socioeconomic, and management criteria, indicators, and metrics included in the protocol. Strengths of the protocol include the following: (a) testing and use across sites with a range of ages, forest types, past land uses, restoration techniques, and implementing institutions; (b) participation by a broad range of government, nongovernment, private, and academic institutions in the protocol development process; and (c) inclusion of socioeconomic and management criteria. Next steps for facilitating the broad adoption of the protocol in the Atlantic Forest region include providing in person and online training courses, establishing an online repository for storing and comparing monitoring data, and developing smartphone applications to facilitate data collection. Although the protocol was developed for the Atlantic Forest context and further refinements are needed, we think that the Atlantic Forest Pact monitoring protocol may serve as a model to inform the development of similar protocols in other regions, which ultimately could be integrated to produce a pantropical protocol for common use by several restoration forest programs worldwide.
Conservation Letter
Protocol for Monitoring Tropical Forest
Restoration: Perspectives From the Atlantic
Forest Restoration Pact in Brazil
Ricardo A. G. Viani
1
, Karen D. Holl
2
, Aurelio Padovezi
3
,
Bernardo B. N. Strassburg
4
, Fabiano T. Farah
5
, Letı
´cia C. Garcia
6
,
Rafael B. Chaves
7
, Ricardo R. Rodrigues
8
, and Pedro H. S. Brancalion
9
Abstract
Monitoring protocols are needed to evaluate the millions of hectares of land that are being proposed for forest restoration in
the coming decades. Standardized proposals are critical to evaluate efficacy of restoration strategies, identify triggers for
corrective actions, compare results across projects, and generally learn from past projects to inform future restoration
efforts. We describe an iterative process, including over 200 stakeholders, to develop a protocol for monitoring Brazilian
Atlantic Forest restoration. We give an overview of the ecological, socioeconomic, and management criteria, indicators, and
metrics included in the protocol. Strengths of the protocol include the following: (a) testing and use across sites with a range
of ages, forest types, past land uses, restoration techniques, and implementing institutions; (b) participation by a broad range
of government, nongovernment, private, and academic institutions in the protocol development process; and (c) inclusion of
socioeconomic and management criteria. Next steps for facilitating the broad adoption of the protocol in the Atlantic Forest
region include providing in person and online training courses, establishing an online repository for storing and comparing
monitoring data, and developing smartphone applications to facilitate data collection. Although the protocol was developed
for the Atlantic Forest context and further refinements are needed, we think that the Atlantic Forest Pact monitoring
protocol may serve as a model to inform the development of similar protocols in other regions, which ultimately could be
integrated to produce a pantropical protocol for common use by several restoration forest programs worldwide.
Keywords
ecological indicators, ecological restoration, large-scale restoration, restoration success, socioeconomic evaluation
Introduction
Ambitious forest and landscape restoration targets, such
as the Bonn Challenge, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and
New York Declaration on Forests (Suding et al., 2015),
demonstrate an unprecedented recognition of restoration
as a global priority for addressing biodiversity conserva-
tion and human well-being. International commitments
are being converted into large-scale on-the-ground restor-
ation projects, and many regional and national initiatives
are being implemented worldwide (Aguilar et al., 2015;
Bae, Joo, & Kim 2012). Ongoing monitoring is critical to
determine whether projects are achieving stated goals and
objectives and to identify problems to be addressed by
adaptive management interventions (Hobbs, Hallett,
Ehrlich, & Mooney, 2011). The large amounts of private
1
Departamento de Biotecnologia e Produc¸a
˜o Vegetal e Animal,
Universidade Federal de Sa
˜o Carlos, Araras, SP, Brazil
2
Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz,
CA, USA
3
World Resources Institute, Sa
˜o Paulo, Brazil
4
International Institute for Sustainability, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
5
Bioflora Tecnologia da Restaurac¸a
˜o, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil
6
Centro de Cie
ˆncias Biolo
´gicas, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do
Sul, Campo Grande, MS, Brazil
7
Centro de Restaurac¸a
˜o Ecolo
´gica, Secretaria do Meio Ambiente do Estado
de Sa
˜o Paulo, Sa
˜o Paulo, SP, Brazil
8
Departamento de Cie
ˆncias Biolo
´gicas, ESALQ—Universidade de Sa
˜o
Paulo, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil
9
Departamento de Cie
ˆncias Florestais, ESALQ—Universidade de Sa
˜o Paulo,
Piracicaba, SP, Brazil
Corresponding Author:
Ricardo A. G. Viani, Departamento de Biotecnologia e Produc¸a
˜o Vegetal e
Animal, Universidade Federal de Sa
˜o Carlos, Rodovia Anhanguera, Km 174,
DBPVA, CCA-UFSCar, Araras-SP, CEP 13600-091, Brazil.
Email: viani@cca.ufscar.br
Received 8 December 2016; Accepted 25 January 2017
Tropical Conservation Science
Volume 10: 1–8
!The Author(s) 2017
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and public financial resources needed for such ambitious
restoration goals, estimated at US$18 billion per year
(Menz, Dixon, & Hobbs, 2013), require transparency,
up-to-date monitoring information, and adequate
reporting to communicate restoration outcomes
(Jørgensen et al., 2014). However, traditional restoration
monitoring approaches have been implemented at limited
temporal and spatial scales, often with minimal analysis
of data and application of results to inform subsequent
management interventions.
The use of high-resolution satellite images has allowed
unparalleled achievements in monitoring changes in
forest cover globally (Global Forest Watch, 2014;
Hansen et al., 2013), and shows promise to assess
restoration at large scales. Such technologies, however,
have been used more to date for assessing deforestation,
a discrete land use change that can be easily identified by
satellites, compared with reforestation, a gradual and less
predictable change that may take decades. Many eco-
logical filters must be overcome by restoration interven-
tions to allow the reestablishment of tree cover, which is
only a single component of forest restoration (Holl &
Aide, 2011; Suganuma & Durigan, 2015). Consequently,
on-the-ground, local monitoring assessments are still
essential to support decision-making in adaptive manage-
ment and to thoroughly assess restoration outcomes
(Wortley, Hero, & Howes, 2013). A key challenge is stan-
dardizing local monitoring assessments in the context of
large-scale and multistakeholder restoration programs.
Standardized protocols are critical to ensure compar-
ability of local monitoring efforts across regional and
even global scales (Holl, & Cairns, 2002). Restoration
projects vary widely in their goals, making it critical to
clearly define both general goals and specific, measurable,
time-limited objectives in order to select monitoring indi-
cators that evaluate restoration success. Many ecological
indicators are used to evaluate forest restoration (Orsi,
Genelettia, & Newtonb, 2011; Wortley et al., 2013), and
each of them can be measured using a variety of methods
and sampling designs (Reyers et al., 2013; Ruiz-Jaen &
Aide, 2005). Consequently, if monitoring protocols
are not integrated from the outset, their results often
are not comparable. This limits the ability to evaluate
the overall success of large-scale restoration programs,
to compare effectiveness of different restoration methods,
and to establish reference values for specific ecosystem
types.
A restoration monitoring protocol consists of a group
of indicators selected for restoration assessment based on
ecosystem and socioeconomic characteristics and project
goals, and technical guidance for measuring such indica-
tors (Block, Franklin, Ward, Ganey, & White, 2001).
To be most useful, monitoring protocols should be
designed to be used across sites employing different
restoration methods after a range of degradation scen-
arios and at varying successional stages of recovery.
Monitoring methods must be cost effective and repeat-
able by different people (Holl, & Cairns, 2002).
Additionally, reference values should be collected from
multiple sites or literature sources, given natural vari-
ation, and should be tailored to the ecosystem type and
successional stage that is targeted for specific projects
(Ehrenfeld, 2000).
Although forest restoration monitoring protocols
have been developed for some regions and ecosystems
(e.g., Elliott, Blaskesley, & Hardwick, 2013; Savage,
Derr, Schumann, & Abrams, 2005), they usually focus
on a narrow suite of ecological parameters and do not
include management and socioeconomic indicators (Le,
Smith, Herbohn, & Harrison, 2012; Wortley et al., 2013).
In addition, there are few published studies reporting fail-
ure of projects and underlying reasons (Gonza
´lez, Sher,
Tabacchi, Masip, & Poulin, 2015; Le et al., 2012), so
monitoring can identify problems and save money in
future projects.
Here, we present the perspectives of the monitoring
protocol developed by the Atlantic Forest Restoration
Pact (Pacto) in Brazil, a national coalition with the goal
of promoting the restoration of 15 million ha of the
Atlantic Forest by 2050 (Calmon et al., 2011). The
Pacto is a multistakeholder initiative formed by 267 insti-
tutions, including nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs), private companies, governments, and research
institutions, launched in 2009 to foster large-scale forest
restoration in the biome (Brancalion, Viani, Calmon,
Carrascosa, & Rodrigues, 2013). One main goal of the
Pacto was to develop a common monitoring protocol to
standardize monitoring efforts. We describe the protocol
and the development process, as well as review the
strengths and weaknesses. We think that the Pacto moni-
toring protocol may serve as a model for the development
of similar protocols in other regions, which ultimately
could be integrated to produce a pantropical protocol
for use by restoration forest programs worldwide.
Protocol Development History
After the Pacto launch in 2009, the coalition prioritized
developing a common monitoring protocol to (a) collect
more data about the restoration projects registered and
provide better accountability for Pacto supporters;
(b) identify general barriers and common needs for
Atlantic Forest restoration projects; (c) inform corrective
actions in ongoing restoration projects and enhance
success of future ones; and (d) standardize restoration
monitoring, thereby reducing the work of member insti-
tutions, enabling comparison of results, and defining ref-
erence values. The aim was to establish a protocol
2Tropical Conservation Science
applicable to all forest restoration projects and programs
in the Atlantic Forest, regardless of their age, restoration
technique, or region. The group was committed to
developing a multifaceted monitoring protocol, given
that restoration success depends not only on ecological
but appropriate socioeconomic and management
conditions.
A 2-day workshop was held in 2011 to prepare,
discuss, and validate a first version of the protocol; 70
members from 53 Brazilian and 2 international institu-
tions, including 27 NGOs, 13 governmental organiza-
tions, 8 private companies, and 7 research institutions
participated. The protocol was reviewed by a working
group based on discussions at the meeting and widely
distributed in August 2011.
This version was field tested across different regions of
the Atlantic Forest. A large dataset of selected ecological
indicators, including data from over 1,000 ha of sites
undergoing restoration and 1,315 monitoring plots, was
gathered in a partnership between the University of Sa
˜o
Paulo, private companies, and NGOs. The dataset was
used to estimate monitoring labor requirement and costs,
as well as to model protocol sampling effort. In addition,
the full protocol was pilot tested on selected projects.
In March 2013, a second 2-day workshop focused on
learning from the field-testing and discussing changes to
improve the protocol. This workshop included participa-
tion of 27 government, private, NGO, and academic insti-
tutions from several Brazilian states, all of whom were
directly involved in monitoring forest restoration.
Products of the workshop were (a) a simpler and easier-
to-apply version protocol and (b) a list of recommenda-
tions to facilitate widespread use of the protocol. Both
products were developed because the earlier version was
not widely adopted, presumably due to its complexity
and low practicality for restoration managers given the
resources and time required to implement it.
Recommendations for improvement ranged from sim-
plifying methods to reformulating protocol layout and
communication tools with practitioners.
Protocol Overview
The most recent Pacto monitoring protocol was adopted
in 2013 and it is available for download in Portuguese
and English (http://www.pactomataatlantica.org.br/pub-
licacoes). The protocol is hierarchically structured into
principles (ecological, socioeconomic, and management),
criteria, indicators, and metrics (Table 1), which is an
adaptation from environmental certification protocols.
Within each principle, there are ‘‘criteria’’ (e.g., forest
structure, vegetation composition) each of which are
assessed by groups of ‘‘indicators.’’ ‘‘Metrics’’ are the
methods for measuring or evaluating an indicator.
A criterion may have several indicators, and there may
be multiple metrics for evaluating a specific indicator
(Table 1). Overall, the protocol has 19 criteria
(Table 1), 41 indicators, and 74 metrics. Ecological
criteria are evaluated for individual restoration projects,
whereas socioeconomic and management criteria are
evaluated for restoration programs (i.e., multiple restor-
ation projects within a watershed or region implemented
by a given institution or group).
Ecological Principle
The Ecological Principle presumes that forest restoration
must reestablish ecological processes with native species
and ensure the self-sustainability of restored ecosystems.
The Ecological Principle was divided into two recovery
phases because (a) most of the money spent on restor-
ation projects in the Atlantic Forest, and arguably in
most forest restoration initiatives, is focused on establish-
ing a canopy cover, so it is important early on to evaluate
success toward this endpoint and take corrective actions,
if needed; (b) assessing other ecological indicators
(e.g., biomass accumulation, shrub, and tree seedling
regeneration) is more appropriate once an initial
canopy cover is established. Although the protocol
distinguishes two monitoring phases, simultaneous moni-
toring of metrics from both phases can be done any time
during a restoration project, if desired.
Phase I is focused on the successful development of
tree cover, and, based on experience, Pacto members
agreed 70% is the minimum canopy cover level needed
to reduce cover of invasive grasses and facilitate tree
establishment. Phase I is composed of four criteria (vege-
tation structure, vegetation composition, edaphic, and
degradation factors) with 11 indicators and 12 metrics.
Canopy cover is the main indicator and the only one that
must be assessed. In cases where the 70% canopy cover
target has not yet been achieved, measuring a set of indi-
cators, such as ground cover by invasive or hyperabun-
dant herbaceous species, soil compaction, and incidence
of herbivory by leaf-cutting ants, is recommended to
identify which barriers most strongly limit recovery.
Once the 70% canopy cover is reached, monitoring
moves to Phase II, which focuses on ecological trajectory.
Phase II has two criteria, tree structure in different size
classes, including recruits, and composition (Table 1).
The protocol includes details on recommended sampling
intensity, how to collect and verify each indicator, work-
sheet templates, and a glossary. The Pacto members
decided to focus on vegetation attributes because most
Atlantic Forest restoration projects are targeted at
restoring forest cover, and plant regeneration can indicate
ecological processes mediated by fauna, such as seed dis-
persal (Ribeiro et al., 2015).
Viani et al. 3
Socioeconomic Principle
Success or failure of forest restoration projects depend
also on a number of socioeconomic considerations such
as stakeholder involvement, economic costs and benefits,
and labor conditions. These considerations motivated the
inclusion of a Socioeconomic Principle, which is orga-
nized as 7 criteria (Table 1), 15 indicators, and 29 metrics,
aimed at capturing information related to the financial
fluxes involved in the project, as well as effects on the
workers and the local community. Data on restoration
program costs, revenues, incentives, and sources of fund-
ing are useful to understand the economic viability of
projects and to better illustrate economic benefits.
These benefits can accrue to the landowners (e.g.,
income from products or services generated by the pro-
ject), but also to the wider society (e.g., job creation and
poverty reduction). Information on the working condi-
tions is crucial to avoid the proliferation of projects
with inappropriate workforce conditions (e.g., lack of
labor security or health risks). Finally, indicators on the
relationship between the project and the surrounding
communities are central to assess whether a participatory
approach is being followed, which is not only ethically
appropriate but essential to the long-term project
viability.
Data for the Socioeconomic Principle are collected
using semi-structured interviews of stakeholders, partici-
pant observation, and document analysis. The general
recommendation is to evaluate forest restoration pro-
grams every 3 years.
Management Principle
Prior to the protocol, many Pacto members observed a
lack of planning and documentation of projects, which
resulted in restoration failure and a lost opportunity to
learn from past mistakes. Thus, the Management
Principle was developed with a set of 6 criteria
(Table 1), 9 indicators, and 26 metrics to document the
existence of information and records regarding preimple-
mentation planning, socioenvironmental diagnosis,
selection and implementation of restoration techniques,
as well as lists of regional and planted species, data and
photographic records, mapping, periodical reports, and
other information to assist in understanding possible
causes of restoration success or failure. The application
of the Management Principle can identify gaps in the
various planning and implementation activities that are
likely to lead to an unsuccessful restoration program and
enable project leaders to communicate their successful
experiences.
Management Principle data are collected in the same
way as described for the Socioeconomic Principle.
Additionally, the protocol suggests writing a brief project
report summarizing the monitoring data and highlighting
the most relevant positive and negative points related to
management and socioeconomic impacts.
Protocol Strengths and Limitations
The Pacto monitoring protocol represents a potential
starting point for developing tropical forest monitoring
protocols for other regions. To that end, we review the
strengths, weaknesses, and lessons learned from the
process, recognizing that there will necessarily be
improvements and refinements to tailor subsequent
protocols to specific project goals and forest types. The
protocol was developed for and pilot tested in Atlantic
Forest restoration sites that include a range of ages, forest
types, past land uses, restoration techniques, and imple-
menting institutions, enhancing the likelihood that it will
be useful in other tropical forest regions.
A strong point is that the protocol was collectively
constructed by regional, national, and international col-
laborators and therefore, the protocol is not restricted to
the vision and opinion of a single person, sector, or
institution. Instead, many stakeholders involved with
forest restoration, including policy makers, practitioners,
managers, and scientific institutions provided input.
Restoration is a multidisciplinary area with science and
practice demands (DellaSala et al., 2003), and the inclu-
sion of different points of view is important to ensure
effective large-scale ecological and restoration monitor-
ing (Lindenmayer & Likens, 2010). Moreover, inclusion
of a range of stakeholders throughout the process is crit-
ical to ‘‘buy in,’’ so the protocol is actually used.
Another benefit is the development of a large suite of
metrics, which offers practitioners a view of the whole
forest restoration process and the possibility of selecting
the appropriate indicators depending on their objectives
and goals. If a primary goal is restoring biodiversity then
indicators of species richness may be selected, whereas to
evaluate carbon sequestration, basal area is a more
appropriate metric. Most of the ecological metrics focus
on vegetation structure, arguably the most common goal
of forest restoration projects. Additional indicators and
metrics would need to be developed for substantially dif-
ferent project goals, such as efforts targeted to restore
individual species or certain guilds of fauna.
Although we consider the range of metrics as a
strength, we recognize that guidance may be needed to
help the user select specific indicators and metrics for
their specific goals and objectives. Monitoring budgets
are often limited so it is critical to carefully select the
most efficient set of metrics to evaluate whether specific
objectives are being achieved (Holl & Cairns, 2002). As
an example, Sa
˜o Paulo State developed a protocol to
evaluate restoration success in mandatory and public-
funded restoration projects which requires only three
4Tropical Conservation Science
Table 1. Principles, Criteria, and Examples of Indicators for the Forest Restoration Monitoring Protocol Established by the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact.
Principles Criteria Example of indicators
Ecological Phase I
(Canopy structure:
<70% of canopy cover)
1—Forest structure Canopy cover
a
and invasive herbaceous species
cover.
2—Tree and shrub species composition Density and composition of invasive tree species.
3—Edaphic Soil chemical and physical properties and infor-
mation on soil compaction and conservation.
4—Degradation factors Fire occurrences, domestic animals grazing within
restoration sites and leaf-cutting ants attacks.
Phase II
(Ecological trajectory:
70% of canopy cover)
1—Forest Structure Density of small (0.5 m-height; CBH <15 cm)
and large (CBH 15 cm) woody plants and
basal area of trees with CBH 15 cm.
2—Species composition Numbers of native and invasive woody species.
Socioeconomic 1—Work and/or income from the restoration areas Generation of jobs and level of investment in the
program.
2—Revenues and financial incentives associated with
restoration
Payment of environmental services (PES), tax
incentives, commercialization of timber and
non-timber products.
3—Source of resources for restoration Investigation of resources invested in the restor-
ation project.
4—Job opportunities, training and other services to
local communities
Hiring of labor and income generation for local
economy.
5—Well-being of workers in forest restoration Securing benefits to worker health and respon-
sibility for ensuring compliance with the
appropriate sanitary and environmental
conditions.
6—Ensure appropriate work safety conditions Availability of personal protective equipment
(PPE) for workers.
7—Relationship of the program with the surrounding
community
Participation of communities and local stake-
holders. Environmental education actions.
Management 1—Planning and documenting program execution Information and records of socioenvironmental
diagnosis, regional, and planted (if this is the
case) species lists, program implementation
schedule and budget, mapping and photos of
restoration sites.
2—Partnership with the rural property owner con-
cerning the execution of forest restoration activities
b
Partnership agreement with the landowner.
3—Technical ability of the restoration practitioners Qualification of managers and the technical team.
(continued)
5
ecological indicators from the Pacto protocol: (a) native
vegetation ground cover; (b) density of native plants
spontaneously regenerating; and (c) number of spontan-
eously regenerating native plant species (Chaves,
Durigan, Brancalion, & Aronson, 2015).
We recognize that the protocol lacks trigger points
(e.g., specific target values to be achieved by a certain
time) that if not reached require additional management
actions. The only specific target value is 70% of canopy
cover, which is the threshold to move from ecological
monitoring Phase I to II. Trigger points are critical to
the adaptive management cycle and to ensure that cor-
rective actions are taken if restoration targets are not
being achieved (Holl & Cairns, 2002). That said, trigger
points will vary depending on project objectives and the
forest type and, therefore, are problematic to specify in a
general protocol. For example, based on their experience
in Thailand, Elliott et al. (2013) recommend a target of
3,100 woody stems ha
1
for all tropical forest restoration
projects, a target that is quite different from those of
many forest restoration projects in Latin America.
Likewise, the 70% forest cover threshold separating
Phase I and II of the Ecological Principle would likely
need to be modified if applied in a different region.
Another strong point of the Pacto protocol is the possi-
bility of frequent updating based on learning through its
application by stakeholders. We contend that such a cycle
of learning should be incorporated in any similar regional
monitoring efforts to best adapt protocols to local eco-
systems and user needs. For the Pacto protocol, this test-
ing and learning was incorporated between the first and
second workshops, and we anticipate further periodic
workshops will be organized when more data and feed-
back become available from practitioner use.
Although there have been calls to include socioeco-
nomic factors in restoration planning and assessment
(DellaSala et al., 2003; Brancalion, Viani, Strassburg, &
Rodrigues, 2012), to date evaluation of restoration suc-
cess has focused on ecological attributes (Wortley et al.,
2013). Thus, the inclusion of Socioeconomic and
Management principles is noteworthy. We acknowledge
that these principles are less well developed and tested
than the Ecological Principle, given that there was more
prior experience with and technical capacity on ecological
criteria and metrics. We anticipate that over time, the
socioeconomic and management metrics will be a focus
of improvements to the protocol.
Perspectives
Efforts are underway to improve the implementation of
the protocol in the Atlantic Forest, which also provide
insight for applying a revised version in other regions. We
prioritized the next issues to be addressed based on stake-
holder inputs at the second workshop. First, it is
Table 1. Continued
Principles Criteria Example of indicators
4—Restoration monitoring Existence of a monitoring follow-up protocol
used to evaluate restoration results.
5—Communication Flow of external and internal information
between management, practitioners, and
community.
6—Technological and methodological innovations Usage, discovery, or establishment of any suc-
cessful technological or methodological
innovations.
Note. All the indicators and details on how to collect their data are described in the Protocol (available at Pacto website). CBH: stem circumference at 1.3 m.
a
Canopy cover is the mandatory indicator in this phase and the others are suggestions to investigate filters enabling forest community to reach a desirable forest cover.
b
In cases where the owner is not directly responsible for program execution.
6Tropical Conservation Science
6
necessary to provide training for restoration stakeholders
on use of the protocol. Hence, training courses are being
offered throughout the region, and an online tutorial
video, that will be freely available and include detailed
training modules, is being prepared in partnership with
the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative
(elti.yale.edu).
Second, an online database is being developed to
provide restoration practitioners with an easy-to-use,
web-based GIS platform where monitoring data from
individual projects can be loaded. To incentivize Pacto
members to upload their data, there are plans to deliver
an automatic feedback report, which will include com-
parisons of individual project values for the most com-
monly collected quantitative indicators (e.g., canopy
cover, tree density, tree richness) with values for other
similarly aged restoration projects in that region and
vegetation type. In addition, the report will suggest gen-
eral management actions when values are lower than
expected for some of those indicators. This system is
essential to generate regional reference variables for the
most important ecological indicators, a step necessary for
defining trigger points for corrective actions. Finally,
members requested applications (apps) to facilitate data
collection. The initial goal is to create an app to load
ecological data collected in the field directly into smart-
phones and tablets, thus reducing field and office work.
We see extensive potential for the Pacto protocol to be
used more widely both regionally and globally. Seventeen
Brazilian States are within the Atlantic Forest, and their
governments will need monitoring protocols to evaluate
success of their ambitious restoration goals (Soares-Filho
et al., 2014). Following on the Sa
˜o Paulo State example
(Chaves el al., 2015), other states could take advantage of
the previous multistakeholder approach and officially
adopt a version of the Pacto protocol tailored to their
needs. Although the Pacto monitoring protocol was
designed for the Atlantic Forest, the participatory process
through which it was developed may make it a starting
point to develop related forest restoration monitoring
protocols throughout the globe in order to face the
coming challenge of large-scale forest restoration
(Suding et al., 2015). Regardless, we are certain that the
lessons learned through the experience of developing the
protocol will be informative to others involved in a simi-
lar process.
Implications for Conservation
A forest restoration monitoring protocol with ecological,
socioeconomic, and management indicators is available
for monitoring Brazilian Atlantic Forest restoration pro-
jects, and can serve as a starting point for developing
forest restoration monitoring protocols in other regions
of the world. The regular use of the Atlantic Forest
Restoration Pact monitoring protocol will provide a
large amount of data for defining regional reference
values for the most important indicators and for improv-
ing restoration efforts, and their benefits, including con-
servation. The integration among restoration
stakeholders (scientists, policy-makers, practitioners,
managers, environmental, and private bodies) is essential
for developing and implementing an effective monitoring
protocol.
Acknowledgments
We thank all the institutions that participated in the 2011 and 2013
workshops to discuss the Pacto monitoring protocol.
Declaration of Conflicting of Interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Ricardo A.
G. Viani, Fabiano T. Farah, Ricardo R. Rodrigues, and Pedro H. S.
Brancalion are supported by Grant #2013/50718-5, Sa
˜oPaulo
Research Foundation (FAPESP).
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8Tropical Conservation Science
... PCI frameworks are three-tier thematically structured catalogs of principles and criteria with related lists of indicators (Mendoza & Prabhu 2003;Park & Higgs 2018). These have been applied to FLR assessment and have served as the basis for the development of standards and certification (Prabhu et al. 1996;Viani et al. 2017). To streamline CI and PCI frameworks, redundancies within tiers are intentionally eliminated (e.g. ...
... Only one monitoring framework was not rooted in the FLR principles (Buckingham et al. 2017, Table 1). Two frameworks were designed principally for forest restoration (Orsi et al. 2011;Viani et al. 2017 Orsi et al. (2011) No Viani et al. (2017) No WWF (2003) Reduced to three principles Buckingham et al. (2017) No. Indicator framework Bustos Linare (2018) Yes Table 2. For each criterion, the level of connection between indicators and each principle. ...
... Only one monitoring framework was not rooted in the FLR principles (Buckingham et al. 2017, Table 1). Two frameworks were designed principally for forest restoration (Orsi et al. 2011;Viani et al. 2017 Orsi et al. (2011) No Viani et al. (2017) No WWF (2003) Reduced to three principles Buckingham et al. (2017) No. Indicator framework Bustos Linare (2018) Yes Table 2. For each criterion, the level of connection between indicators and each principle. ...
Article
Forest and landscape restoration (FLR) aims to simultaneously restore ecological functionality to deforested or degraded landscapes and ensure the provision of ecosystem services essential for human well-being. Interest in FLR has followed the ambitious commitments made to restore degraded forest by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests. To clarify and define FLR, the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration articulated six principles that underlie this approach, but other sets of principles have also been developed. Our paper examines if and to what extent these principles and their interdependencies are captured in frameworks currently used to monitor FLR. We conducted a literature review to identify FLR monitoring frameworks that linked criteria to principles, but found only five appropriate publications. These frameworks were strictly hierarchical and thus unlikely to capture the interactions and interdependencies among different elements of FLR. Two of the five addressed all six principles. Second, we conducted a series of group exercises with experts to characterize the topology of FLR monitoring frameworks by linking criteria to principles and examining interconnections. We cataloged 18 criteria and 76 indicators, in a non-exhaustive exercise. Cognitive mapping of the interconnections between FLR principles and criteria showed that criteria are typically linked to more than one principle indicating the need to consider networked frameworks. However, no FLR monitoring frameworks currently exist for understanding and operationalizing all six principles, and integrating the interconnected processes underpinning FLR planning, monitoring, and assessment. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... When restoring forests in Madagascar, practitioners have engaged local communities in assessment by respecting their traditional communication styles (Figure 1 and Box 1). To help evaluate restoration success, indicator taxa have been identified in many tropical ecosystems (e.g., [68][69][70][71][72]), alongside more widely applicable measures of ecosystem health, such as water quality and vegetation structural complexity [73], and socioeconomic indicators, such as changes in household income. Recently, a comprehensive set of 61 monitoring indicators was published to help assess the ecological and socioeconomic progress of restoration initiatives (https://globalrestorationobservatory.com/restorationproject-information-sharing-framework/). ...
Article
Well-designed approaches to ecological restoration can benefit nature and society. This is particularly the case in tropical agroecosystems, where restoration can provide substantial socioecological benefits at relatively low costs. To successfully restore tropical agroecosystems and maximise benefits, initiatives must begin by considering ‘who’ should be involved in and benefit from restoration, and ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ restoration should occur. Based on collective experience of restoring tropical agroecosystems worldwide, we present nine actions to guide future restoration of these systems, supported by case studies that demonstrate our actions being used successfully in practice and highlighting cases where poorly designed restoration has been damaging. We call for increased restoration activity in tropical agroecosystems during the current UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
... First, it supports evidence-based planning resulting from improved indicator uptake (Mickwitz and Melanen 2009). Second, it helps to generate new and relevant data and ideas, which benefits organisational learning capacity and institutional effectiveness ( Viani et al. 2017). Fifth, it empowers marginalised stakeholders as a result of improved skills and knowledge, growth of social capital within the community and a more relational approach to the stewardship of local environments considering communities' habits, traditions and worldviews (Lawrence 2006;Constantino et al. 2012;Bautista et al. 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Impact assessment is a key step in mainstreaming urban nature-based solutions (NBS). Yet, it remains unclear if and how assessment frameworks influence urban planning, design and management. We contend that the potential of current NBS assessment frameworks is not fully exploited due to: (1) limited contextualisation of monitoring and assessment to place-specific contexts and (2) the depoliticisation of co-production. To address this, we present a practical five-step action framework to guide inclusive participation across different stages of monitoring and assessment of urban NBS, including indicator selection. Unlike previous approaches, applying selection criteria at the level of individual indicators, we also use criteria at the aggregate level of the indicator set. We conclude that participatory assessment contributes to mainstreaming urban NBS for sustainable and just cities, provided data is contextualised to local decision-making contexts and the process is designed to amplify marginalised voices.
... The projects were monitored using a standard monitoring protocol, the Protocol for Monitoring Programs and Projects of Forest Restoration in the Atlantic Forest (Monitoring Protocol, 2013). Eleven indicators were used to monitor the canopy structure and ecological trajectory (phases I and II) of the restoration projects (Viani et al., 2017) (Table 1). These ecological indicators were chosen because they can be measured quickly in the field and represent three vital ecosystem attributes: structure, diversity, and functionality (Ruiz-Jaen and Mitchell Aide, 2005). ...
Article
Although critical to evaluating success, monitoring is often neglected in ecological restoration. An important question is how much area should be sampled to adequately monitor restoration projects, particularly as projects become larger. We elucidate this issue by testing the following hypotheses: There is an optimal sampling area (OSA) that efficiently captures variation in the estimation of ecological indicators; The restoration intervention and forest type affect OSA; The OSA change over time as restoration projects age. Information on large-scale vegetation monitoring (n = 374) in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest was used to test our hypotheses. We studied moderately assisted recovery (MAR) and lightly assisted recovery (LAR) projects within three forest types (50.5-ha of sampling). The projects were between three months and seven years in age. We calculated the variance for 11 indicators and the proportion of a restoration site that was sampled. We performed segmented regressions to find the OSA. Across all indicators, OSA ranged from 0.25–2.16% for MAR and 0.24–4.67% for LAR. There was weak evidence that OSA was greater in LAR projects (P = 0.052) and semideciduous seasonal forest type (P = 0.060). OSA increased over time, reaching 4.0% of the project area for projects seven years in age. By knowing the OSA for a range of indicators, practitioners can plan for the minimum monitoring needed to evaluate the restoration trajectory confidently and avoid vague or erroneous conclusions. The restoration of large areas will mark this decade, and this study helps fill the knowledge gap on how to monitor them more effectively.
... This knowledge is key to understanding if efforts are working, as well as prioritising interventions, when needed, reducing the cost of management (Crouzeilles et al., 2020;Molin et al., 2018). Moreover, as we learn more from experimental interventions, such as selective thinning and direct seeding, broad-scale and detailed monitoring of projects will enable lessons to be learned to lead to better outcomes (Chazdon and Guariguata, 2016;de Almeida et al., 2020;Harrison and Swinfield, 2015;Kardiman et al., 2019;Swinfield Chapter 1 et al., 2016;Viani et al., 2017). Many of the most vital tropical forests are in countries with growing economies and may not have access to the resources available that projects such as those in the UK enjoy (Angelsen and Wunder, 2003). ...
Thesis
Tropical rain forests are important carbon stores and harbours of biodiversity but are being cleared at an unprecedented rate. There is an estimated 2 billion hectares of degraded forest globally, which retains a large proportion of its biodiversity. Restoration of these lands is needed to meet global commitments to combat the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises, and effective, scalable and affordable monitoring of the restoration process is essential. High resolution remote sensing technologies offer the best hope for monitoring at scale. In particular, unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer a viable option for high spatial and temporal resolution remote sensing, though methods to guide forest restoration with these are still in their infancy. This thesis introduces approaches for the use of remote sensing data to guide tropical forest management, with particular focus on the use of UAV data in the context of restoration, looking at canopy structure, composition and dynamics. First, I introduce the context of tropical forest restoration, discussing the contribution of remote sensing to monitoring and understanding projects, with a focus on the recent developments around the use of UAVs. I also introduce the main study site of this thesis --- an ecosystem restoration concession of nearly 100 km^2 in Sumatra, Indonesia, known as Hutan Harapan. Next, I introduce a method for delineating individual tree crowns in three dimensions from remote sensing data in the form of point clouds, as created by light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and UAV structure from motion (SfM) approaches. This method, MCGC, makes use of graph cut concepts from mathematics combined with understanding of tree crown geometry and allometric scaling to automatically map tree crowns. I validate this approach using data collected in Borneo, comparing forests with three distinctive structures, showing the power of this approach to both map trees and estimate aboveground biomass. In Chapter 3, I develop a pipeline for automatic mapping of key tree species prevalence at Hutan Harapan from photographs taken from a UAV. I show it is possible to break up imagery over management units into superpixels, and through a combination of spectral and textural patterns in the imagery, train an automatic classifier to detect the species of interest from UAV imagery. I then show the power of this approach to map prevalence of key tree species indicative of the successional stage of forest recovery and demonstrate the utility of this approach for guiding management. I find that using an extra camera to take photographs with additional wavebands only slightly improved mapping accuracy. Finally, I use a combination of a LiDAR survey in 2014 and UAV surveys in 2017 and 2018 to track the effects of the strong El Niño event of 2015-16 on the canopy at Hutan Harapan, looking at 3 sites of varying recovery status spanning 100 ha of forest. I find that early-successional forest was less resistant to the drought than taller secondary forest – with canopy height loss and high mortality. However, in the subsequent high-rainfall period, I observe that early-successional forests recovered strongly. Together, the analyses demonstrate that early-successional stages lost and then regained canopy height to a greater extent that taller forest, highlighting the power of repeat surveys using LiDAR and UAVs to track canopy dynamics. Finally, I critically evaluate the methods developed, highlighting how the insights they provide can be useful for restoration practitioners, underlining the key role that remote sensing, especially with a UAV, can play whilst also needing further development.
... Although these changes are widely used to predict ecological effects, the transitions and occurrence of changes are not explored with spatial and temporal detail. This is a necessary analysis in hotspot areas since land use dynamics intensifies ecosystem degradation with exposure of biodiversity to anthropogenic pressure (Viani et al., 2017;Guerra et al., 2020;De Lima et al., 2020). ...
Article
Regions of intense fragmentation and landscape transformation can indicate patterns of conversion of forest areas in space and time, challenging the resilience of ecosystems and driving the degradation of natural resources. In this study, we analyzed the dynamics of use, loss, and gain of Atlantic forests in the southern region of Bahia State in the last thirty-four years (1985-2019) based on pre and post-implementation of forest production policies. The area has ecological, historical, and cultural importance, and is the most conserved portion of the Atlantic Forest in northeastern Brazil. From the remote sensing products of the MapBiomas Project and spatial analyses of land use and forests, we evaluated a conflicted region that has 751 kilometers of coastline and seventy municipalities. Our results indicate a degraded landscape, with 59% of the territory occupied by anthropogenic activities and intense fragmentation. The planting of eucalyptus forests and pasture stood out as landscape modifiers. The results show a loss of 328,595 ha of Atlantic Forest in the period under study, with a large part of this area being replaced by planted forests of Eucalyptus sp derivated the policies economics of the sector. It is urgent to consider the recovery of the Atlantic domain, prioritizing the capacity of ecosystems, especially in the Decade of Restoration.
... Engaging a diverse range of stakeholders from the public, private, and civil society sectors, and building and sustaining coalitions supporting restoration is imperative. When done in this way, restoration can increase well-being through the sale of forest products, increased food supplies, improved water security, and the promotion of the diverse cultural values people place on landscapes [53][54][55][56] . Landscape restoration may also positively affect tenure and land rights for many Indigenous peoples, local communities, and landowners. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Restoration can be applied in many different Amazonian contexts, but will be most effective at leveraging environmental and social benefits when it is prioritized across the Amazon basin or within landscapes and catchments. Here we outline the considerations that are most relevant for planning and scaling restoration across the Amazon.
... For instance, Knowles (1999, 2001) showed that mixed commercial species plantings of mostly exotic timber trees were the most productive treatment for basal area development and height growth in areas formerly under bauxite mining. Mixed approaches may include the planting of seedlings of native and/or exotic species, the assistance of natural regeneration, or the establishment of agroforestry systems (Macdonald et al., 2015;Stanturf et al., 2015;Viani et al., 2017). The most commonly used technique beyond natural regeneration is a combination of treating soils to increase fertility and reduce acidity (e.g. with calcium carbonate, nitrogen fertilizer, biochar) and seedling and tree planting (Grossnickle and Ivetić, 2017;Palma and Laurance, 2015;Rodrigues et al., 2019). ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This chapter examines site-specific opportunities and approaches for restoring terrestrial and aquatic systems, focusing on local actions and their immediate benefits. Landscape, catchment, and biome-wide considerations are addressed in Chapter 29. Conservation approaches are addressed in Chapter 27.
... Furthermore, water and nutrient uptake by planted trees is inhibited due to competition with weeds (Eyles et al., 2012), which are generally favored and abundant in the degraded sites that claimed for forest restoration (Alvino-Rayol et al., 2011;Holl, 2002). Therefore, the initial goal of tropical forest restoration is to quickly form a canopy cover (Almeida and Viani, 2019a;Rodrigues et al., 2009;Viani et al., 2017), which can be achieved in two to five years in native tree seedling plantations (Ferez et al., 2015;Lamb et al., 2005;Suganuma and Durigan, 2015). Rapid covering of the soil by trees is important, because it reduces the availability of light in the understory and suppresses weeds, which are usually shade-intolerant plants (Holl et al., 2000;Jennings et al., 1999;Lamb et al., 2005;Martins et al., 2004;Rodrigues et al., 2009). ...
Article
Investigating the impact of silvicultural practices on tropical forest restoration plantations is highly relevant, as there is a growing global demand for large-scale ecological restoration. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that native trees respond positively to the intensification of fertilization and weed control in a forest restoration plantation on a site previously used as cropland in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil. We carried out a study with 22 native tree species, 11 of which were classified as shade species and the other 11 classified as diversity species. We implemented a randomized experimental design in a split-plot design, with six replicates of four treatments: intensive weed control (glyphosate spraying every 3 months) with and without fertilization, and non-intensive control (mechanical control every 6 months), with and without fertilization. We performed fertilization by supplying the site with 53 kg ha⁻¹ of nitrogen, 35 kg ha⁻¹ of phosphorus, and 51 kg ha⁻¹ of potassium. We evaluated individual tree crown areas and increments in basal diameter and height 16 months after planting. In general, growth varied more among species than in weed control and fertilization treatments. Overall, the method of controlling weeds did not influence tree growth, but interacted with species for all growth variables. Fertilization increased tree diameter increment, and interacted with species, leading to diameter and height increments; however, most of the species did not respond to fertilization. Contrary to our expectations and previous findings, silvicultural intensification did not promote higher overall tree growth, probably because the restoration planting was conducted on a cropland with decades of intensive management, which increased soil fertility and reduced weed abundance through periodical maintenance prior to restoration planting. Our results highlight the importance of considering local and historical conditions to decide whether and when management intensification is required to accelerate tree growth in tropical forest restoration plantations.
... Typically, restoration success is monitored with field-measured attributes, e.g., vegetation cover, tree density or biomass, but frequent field assessments can be challenging with limited monitoring budgets (Ruiz-Jaen & Aide, 2005;Viani et al., 2017). The development of remote monitoring technologies could enable cost-effective assessment of vegetation recovery (Reif & Theel, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Restoration has now emerged as a global priority, with international initiatives such as the “UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030)”. To fulfil the large-scale global restoration ambitions, an essential step is the monitoring of vegetation recovery after restoration interventions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the utility of remotely-sensed vegetation indices, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), to monitor the progress of forest regeneration across a tropical forest restoration project area in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Using the chronosequence approach, results indicated non-linear patterns in NDVI and EVI across the first 25 years of recovery. Both NDVI and EVI increased for the first 10 years of forest regeneration. This “greening” phase could be used as the indicator of successful onset of forest recovery. In particular, the decline of elephant grass, and the consequent arrival of shrubs and trees, can be detected as an increase in NDVI. Primary forests differed from the 25-year-old regenerating forests based on the unique combination of low mean and low seasonal variation in EVI. Our results, therefore, suggest that the long-term success of forest restoration could be monitored by evaluating how closely the combination of mean, and degree of seasonal variation in EVI, resembles that observed in the primary forest. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Article
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Human activities have led to the loss of habitats and biodiversity in the Atlantic Rain Forest in Brazil. Ecological restoration aims to rebuild this biome and should include not only the reinstatement of species, but the reestablishment of complex ecological interactions and the ecological functions that they provide. One such function is seed dispersal, which is provided by the interactions between animal frugivores and plants. We studied seed dispersal networks in three different tropical forest sites restored 15, 25 and 57 years ago, temporal scales rarely observed in restoration studies. We investigated changes in network structure (nestedness, modularity and network specialization) in these communities over restoration time. Although network size and the number of interactions increased with time since restoration, the networks were composed of generalist birds, and the large frugivores remained absent. Contrary to our expectations though, species richness was highest in the 25 years old site maybe due the higher number of species used in the planting. Nestedness values were low in all three networks, but the highest nestedness was observed in the intermediate aged site. However, the oldest network was significantly modular and showed higher complementary specialization. These results suggest that, 57 years after restoration, the complexity of mutualistic interactions in seed dispersal networks has increased, this enhancing ecosystem function in the Atlantic forest.
Article
Full-text available
At the September 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, governments rallied around an international agreement—the New York Declaration on Forests—that underscored restoration of degraded ecosystems as an auspicious solution to climate change. Ethiopia committed to restore more than one-sixth of its land. Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, and Colombia pledged to restore huge areas within their borders. In total, parties committed to restore a staggering 350 million hectares by 2030.
Article
Full-text available
At an historic moment, when Colombia is emerging from 60 years of armed conflict, the 7-year-old Colombian Network for Ecological Restoration (Red Colombiana de Restauración Ecológica [REDCRE]) has created four subnational nodes, and is actively developing several more. All of this is taking place in the context of the Ibero-American and Caribbean Society for Ecological Restoration (Sociedad Ibero-Americana y del Caribe de la Restauración Ecológica [SIACRE]). In mid-November 2014, over 200 representatives of government agencies, academia, private enterprises, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the entire country attended a symposium to launch the Antioquia Province node, and take stock and plan the way forward. There are bright prospects of transdisciplinary and public–private collaborations in Colombia for ecological restoration and restoration of natural capital as part of a strategy to transition smoothly to a post-conflict era. We suggest some goals and guidelines to help move forward an ambitious agenda to mainstream ecological restoration.
Article
Full-text available
Assessing the success of ecological restoration projects is critical to justify the use of restoration in natural resource management and to improve best practice. Although there are extensive discussions surrounding the characteristics that define and measure successful restoration, monitoring or evaluation of projects in practice is widely thought to have lagged behind. We conducted a literature review to determine trends in evaluations of restoration projects and identify key knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. We searched the Web of Knowledge plus two additional restoration journals not found in the database for empirical papers that assessed restoration projects post‐implementation. We quantified the extent that key attributes of success, including ecological (vegetation structure, species diversity and abundance, and ecosystem functioning) and socioeconomic, were addressed by these papers along with trends in publication and restoration characteristics. Encouragingly, we found the number of empirical evaluations has grown substantially in recent years. The increased age of restoration projects and number of papers that assessed ecological functions since previous reviews of the literature is also a positive development. Research is still heavily skewed toward United States and Australia, however, and identifying an appropriate reference site needs further investigation. Of particular concern is the dearth of papers identified in the literature search that included any measure of socioeconomic attributes. Focusing future empirical research on quantifying ecosystem services and other socioeconomic outcomes is essential for understanding the full benefits and costs of ecological restoration and to support its use in natural resource management.
Article
Despite growing worldwide commitment to large-scale ecosystem restoration, national public policies on restoration are few, and those that exist tend to be vague. Brazil and especially São Paulo state stand out. In a pioneering attempt to improve restoration projects and their outcomes, the Secretariat for the Environment of the State of São Paulo has enacted a legal instrument to drive planning and to assess whether the goals and targets of mandatory ecological restoration are being achieved. Regardless of the restoration techniques applied, the effectiveness of mandatory or public-funded projects will henceforth be assessed by using three ecological indicators: (1) ground coverage with native vegetation; (2) density of native plants spontaneously regenerating; and (3) number of spontaneously regenerating native plant species. We analyze how this science-based legal framework is expected to promote greater restoration success, improve cost-effectiveness, and help bridge the all-too-familiar knowledge-action gap in environmental policies. Notably, scientists, professionals, public agents, and stakeholders from different institutions have collaborated to advance the refinement and rolling out of this legal instrument. By 2037, it is expected that more than 300,000 restoration projects will be carried out in São Paulo state and monitored using this set of indicators. We also suggest that this approach could be usefully applied to the growing number of ecological restoration programs being carried out worldwide, especially in the context of offset policies intended to achieve serious compensation for environmental degradation or loss of biodiversity.
Article
Despite growing interest and investment in ecosystem services across global science and policy arenas, it remains unclear how ecosystem services -and particularly changes in those services -should be measured. The social and ecological factors, and their interactions, ...
Article
Forest restoration by planting trees often accelerates succession, but the trajectories towards reference ecosystems have rarely been evaluated. Using a chronosequence (4-53 years) of 26 riparian forest undergoing restoration in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, we modeled how the variables representing forest structure, tree species richness and composition, and the proportion of plant functional guilds change through time. We also estimated the time required for these variables reach different types of reference ecosystems - old-growth forest, degraded forest and secondary forest. Among the attributes which follow a predictable trajectory over time are: the basal area, canopy cover, density and tree species richness, as well as proportions of shade tolerant and slow growing species or individuals. Most of the variation in density of pteridophythes, lianas, shrubs and phorophythes, proportion of animal-dispersed individuals, rarefied richness and floristic similarity with reference ecosystems remain unexplained. Estimated time to reach the reference ecosystems is, in general, shorter for structural attributes than for species composition or proportion of functional guilds. The length of this time varies among the three types of reference ecosystems for most attributes. For instance, tree species richness and proportion of shade tolerant or slow growing individuals become similar to secondary forests in about 40 years, but is estimated to take 70 years or more to reach the old-growth forest. Of all the variables considered, canopy cover, basal area, density and richness of the understory – by their ecological relevance and predictability – are recommended as ecological indicators for monitoring tropical forest restoration success.