Tree functional composition, functional diversity, and aboveground biomass show dissimilar trajectories in a tropical secondary forest restored through assisted natural regeneration

Ecol Evol. 2023 Mar 12;13(3):e9870. doi: 10.1002/ece3.9870. eCollection 2023 Mar.


The growing trend of agricultural abandonment requires an understanding of the development of secondary forests on old fields in the context of restoration. However, few studies examine the regeneration trajectories of functional composition and functional diversity in afrotropical secondary forests. We tested how functional composition, diversity, and aboveground biomass (AGB) change with age and determined restoration success for a secondary forest restored through assisted natural regeneration in Uganda. We assessed the influence of distance to forests on regeneration. We sampled trees in 63 plots (2000 m2 each) in the secondary forest (16-22-year old) and five plots in an old-growth forest in 2011, 2014 and 2017. We computed functional composition (community-weighted means-CWM) and diversity using categorical (habitat type, dispersal mode, fruit size, and successional group) and continuous traits (wood density and maximum height) of the species and calculated AGB. The secondary forest showed dissimilar trajectories of functional composition, diversity, and AGB. After 16-22 years, the secondary forest had not yet reached equivalent values of most attributes of functional composition, diversity and AGB in the old-growth forest. The distance to forests had a negative effect on CWM of forest-dependent species, nonpioneer light demanders, and functional divergence and a positive effect on CWM of pioneer species. We show that assisted natural regeneration can enhance the functional composition, functional diversity, and AGB of degraded forests and that continued monitoring is needed to attain full recovery. In planning passive restoration, sites closer to existing forests should be prioritized in order to achieve faster recovery.

PMID:36919016 | PMC:PMC10008352 | DOI:10.1002/ece3.9870


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