Forest age and isolation affect the rate of recovery of plant species diversity and community composition in secondary rain forests in tropical Australia

Goosem, Miriam, Paz, Claudia, Fensham, Rod, Preece, Noel, Goosem, Stephen, and Laurance, Susan G.W. (2016) Forest age and isolation affect the rate of recovery of plant species diversity and community composition in secondary rain forests in tropical Australia. Journal of Vegetation Science, 27 (3). pp. 504-514.

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Questions: Which factors affect the diversity and species composition of tropical secondary rain forests in a region with little information regarding their contribution to global biodiversity?

Can older secondary forests approach the diversity and composition of mature forests following 100 yr of pasture use?

Location: Tropical secondary rain forest, northeast Australia.

Methods: We identified trees, shrubs and vines ≥2.5 cm DBH in a chronosequence comprising 33 sites, aged 3–60 yr since the formation of closed canopy (9–69 yr since pasture abandonment) and compared them with eight sites in nearby mature forest remnants.

Results: Species richness and community composition were strongly influenced by secondary forest age but did not attain values of mature forest. Sites in close proximity to mature forests had higher plant richness, whereas low soil fertility appeared to depress species recruitment. Thus, multiple factors operated in secondary forest community assembly. Unusual tree community patterns that suggest accelerated or slowed successional trajectories were observed at several sites.

Conclusions: Secondary forests in our study region contained important plant diversity for conservation, particularly in older sites, however, even the oldest secondary forests (60 yr) did not converge with the species composition and diversity of mature forests. The protection of mature forest tracts and remnants must be a priority if we are to maintain high levels of plant diversity in tropical landscapes, conserve rare species and facilitate the recruitment of plant species in recovering forests.

Item ID: 44660
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1654-1103
Keywords: forest age; forest isolation; forest regeneration; forest remnants; pasture; secondary forest; species composition; species richness; successional trajectories; tropical rain forest
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant Scheme, Queensland Herbarium (QH), Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA), Biome5 Pty Ltd, Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship
Projects and Grants: ARC LP110201093
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2016 00:06
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410206 Landscape ecology @ 60%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9612 Rehabilitation of Degraded Environments > 961202 Rehabilitation of Degraded Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961306 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas in Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 50%
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