Deforestation of tropical forests can recover faster than expected

Deforestation of tropical forests can recover faster than expected

Tropical forests are recovering faster than expected in areas that have been cut down and converted into farmland and abandoned after many years. Twenty years later, key features of the forest, such as species richness and carbon storage in the soil, have largely been restored. It has been shown by research in 77 locations in South and Central America and West Africa. Results were published on Science.

“This is our Christmas message to the world,” says Lourens Poorter, professor of functional ecology at Wageningen University and research, and the first author of the study, which includes 90 scientists. The poor have a little denial. “Soil should not be used too long and too intensively during the farming season.”

The authors argue in their publication in favor of preserving such regeneration, known as secondary forests, in order to slow the rapid decline of biodiversity around the world. Of the approximately 60,000 species of trees currently recorded GlobalTreeSearch database, Tropical forests inhabit 53,000.

The study was conducted in light of global deforestation. Although it has declined significantly in recent decades, the report says that net (deforestation + deforestation) 10 million hectares of forest are still disappearing each year. Report Global forest status 2020 World Food Program (FAO). This is a country on par with South Korea. Deforestation often takes place in the tropics, with livestock raising and agriculture as the main impetus for soybean and oil palm cultivation.

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Species resource

But over time there are also large tracts of land abandoned to agriculture, and forests are being reclaimed without human intervention. The authors write in their publication that more than a quarter of all tropical forests in Central and South America can now be classified as secondary forests.

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Two years ago Published almost the same, large-scale authors Even about that recovery, in Scientific advances. It then covers 56 locations in Central and South America. They have already noticed that secondary forests are recovering “significantly faster”. “But we estimate that it will take centuries for the original forest to return to its original state,” says Porter. In the new, larger study, it has been reduced to an average of 120 years. Poorter: “We’ve explored many places now, and West Africa is one of them.”

Each of the 77 sites searched for different forest patches (average 0.1 ha) at their recovery time and compared this as closely as possible to the original forest. A total of 2,275 plots were surveyed. All types of properties were mapped: how much nitrogen and carbon is in the soil, what are the properties of the leaves, how much is the biomass above the ground, what is the maximum tree diameter, what is the richness of the species, and what is the ratio of different tree species? “You see a growth in all the characteristics of different plot ages, and you expand it to the values ​​you see in the surrounding old woods.”

Falling leaves

Surprisingly, the base recovered quickly. “At first we thought we had to feed the soil with falling leaves, so you should have trees that are already growing well,” says Porter. But it was found that 90 per cent of the soil was recovered within an average of ten years. Poor: “The cutting and burning of tropical forests brings a lot of nutrients into the soil, and in light-intensive agriculture it is more in the soil than we thought.” Recovering forests benefit from this.

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However, there are a lot of variations in the results. For example, on average, after 37 years, 90 percent of biodiversity has already been restored. But the spread is widespread, ranging from approximately 12 to 105 years. For example, it is important to know if there is still forest near abandoned land. It acts as a sperm donor for new growth. Poor: “Or if there is still a tree here and there on the abandoned land, that too will make a difference.”

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