Tropical forests can bounce back with amazing speed, Today’s new study is published suggests.
A number of factors affect tropical forests. An international team of researchers examined them and discovered that they have a high potential for regrowth when left undeveloped for 20 years. According to their calculations, soil takes on average 10 years to recover its former status, while plant community and animal diversity take 60 years and total biomass takes 120 years. This is partly due to secondary succession, a multidimensional mechanism in which old forest flora & fauna help new forest grow.
These new findings, published by Science, could play a significant role in climate-breakdown mitigation. They also provide actionable advice about how to proceed. These findings also suggest that we can undo the damage caused by climate change over the past few decades.
This is good news because it means that 20 years is a realistic time that I can imagine, that my daughter can envision, and that policymakers can consider. Lourens PoorterProfessor in functional ecology at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and the lead author of the paper.
Poorter says that natural regeneration is often overlooked in favor of tree plantations. However, the former yields better results then restoration plantings. It performs better than planting new trees in terms of biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and recovering nutrients.
Poorter said that the message is clear: We don’t need to plant any more trees when nature does it naturally.
More than 90 researchers from around the globe collaborated to study how tropical forest regrowth occurs. They analyzed data on forest recovery from three continents, including 77 sites and 2,275 parcels of land in the Americas or West Africa. They then assessed 12 criteria, including soil, plant function, ecosystem structure and biodiversity. They then used a technique called Chronosequencing to model the data and infer long-term trends regarding forest recovery.
The researchers focused their attention on what happens to tropical forest land after it has been used for agriculture or farming, and then is abandoned after a few years. The researchers found that the old forest, including any fertile soil, residual trees, seed banks, and possibly stumps that can resprout, created an interconnected, nourishing ecosystem that allowed new forest to begin to grow.
The researchers discovered that different aspects take a different amount of time to return to the old forest levels before they were used. In 20 years, tropical forests can recover 78% of what they were in their old growth status. Poorter stated that this is a remarkable feat of engineering and a surprise to many people.
These are calculations. One of the limitations of chronosequence-based analysis is that each location is assumed to have the exact same history and successional dynamics. Eric SalasA researcher in geospatial science at Central State UniversityWho was not part of this study. There may be some misinterpretation.
Salas stated that it is crucial to understand how secondary forests develop naturally on abandoned agricultural lands in order to conserve biodiversity, especially in tropical settings where there are complex structures and many flora-fauna species.
These findings could be crucial in the future for climate mitigation.
Secondary forests, for example, are like teenagers. Poorter stated that secondary forests absorb carbon like crazy and empty your fridge. Old people consume less than the old growth forest, which is why it is so similar to the old growth forest.
Poorter stated that we are asking for your support to protect secondary forests and encourage natural regeneration in those areas. Poorter says that many of the promises about planting trees to restore forest across the globe are not true. Poorter states that 30%-50% of these trees will die and that only a few species can mimic the natural biodiversity of forests.
My plea is for natural regrowth to be used where possible and for active planting to be restored where needed. It is a case-bycase process. This all depends on the specific landscape and the local needs of those who live in it.