maandag 17 december 2012

Novel tropical forests -> cryptoforestry

Ariel Lugo was one of the first to notice that second growth tropical forests invaded by exotic species were at least as efficient biodiverse as pristine forests. His 2009 paper 'The Emerging Era of Novel Tropical Forests' is only 3 pages but foundational. Here he describes the process from abandoned plantation to forest.
(1) The dominant tree species in the forests of Puerto Rico were mostly introduced species used by people for a variety of reasons.
 

(2) A diverse cohort of native tree species develops underneath the canopy of introduced species.
 

(3) Abandoned plantations of introduced species behaved like native forests and allowed the establishment of a rich understory of native species, which then mixed with the introduced species to form a different forest type than originally present.
 

(4) Experimental plantings of introduced species overcame arrested succession and native forest species reestablished below their canopy.
 

(5) Introduced tree species had the capacity to invade degraded lands while native pioneer species could not.
 

(6) Introduced tree species gained importance in island forests between 1982 and 2003.
 

(7) Introduced species were not randomly distributed on the landscape, but reflected past land uses, bioclimate, and substrate.
 

(8) Emerging forests had higher tree species richness than those that were native, and functioned as did native forests, but at different rates.
The entire paper is quotable but here is the conclusion:
Novel environmental conditions created by human activity favor the remixing of species and formation of novel forests. I expect novel forests to behave ecologically as native forests do, i.e., protect soil, cycle nutrients, support wildlife, store carbon, and maintaining watershed functions. Moreover, novel forests mitigate species extinctions as they, like secondary forests, are in successional paths to maturity and species accumulation. Nature’s response to the Homogeocene cannot continue to be ignored or remain undetected by ecologists. The dawn of the age of tropical novel forests is upon us and must not be ignored. 

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