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      Loss of secondary-forest resilience by land-use intensification in the Amazon

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          1. Understanding how land-use intensification affects forest resilience is a key for elucidating the mechanisms underlying regeneration processes and for planning more sustainable land-use systems. Here, we evaluate how the intensification of a swidden cultivation system affects secondary-forest resilience in the Amazon. 2. Along a gradient of land-use intensity, we analysed the relative role of management intensity, soil properties and landscape configuration in determining the resilience of early secondary forests (SFs). We assessed resilience as the recovery level of forest structure and species diversity achieved by SFs 5 years after abandonment. We used as a reference the recovery level achieved by SFs subjected to the lowest intensity of use, given that these SFs are part of a dynamic system and may not develop to old-growth forests. Therefore, we interpreted a deviation from this reference level as a change in forest resilience. 3. The recovery of forest structure was determined by management intensity, while the recovery of species diversity was driven by landscape configuration. With increasing number of cycles and weeding frequency along with decreasing fallow period and patch area, SF basal area and canopy height decreased, regeneration shifted from a seed- to sprout-dependent strategy, and liana infestation on trees increased. With decreasing area covered by old-growth forest, species richness and Shannon diversity decreased. 4. Secondary-forest resilience decreased with land-use intensification, mainly mediated by the effect of management intensity upon regeneration strategies. Our findings demonstrate the – many times overlooked – importance of previous management intensity in determining the structure of SFs and highlight the importance of regeneration strategy for forest resilience. 5. Synthesis. Swidden cultivation supports people's livelihoods and transforms landscapes in the tropics. The sustainability of this system depends on ecosystem services provided by SFs that develop during the fallow period. Land-use intensification reduces the resilience of SFs and ultimately may drive the system towards an arrested succession state that holds a lower potential to deliver ecosystem services to the Amazonian people. Under an intensification scenario, the adaptation of management practices is needed to guarantee the resilience of swidden cultivation systems.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Effects of fire on properties of forest soils: a review.

          Many physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological soil properties can be affected by forest fires. The effects are chiefly a result of burn severity, which consists of peak temperatures and duration of the fire. Climate, vegetation, and topography of the burnt area control the resilience of the soil system; some fire-induced changes can even be permanent. Low to moderate severity fires, such as most of those prescribed in forest management, promote renovation of the dominant vegetation through elimination of undesired species and transient increase of pH and available nutrients. No irreversible ecosystem change occurs, but the enhancement of hydrophobicity can render the soil less able to soak up water and more prone to erosion. Severe fires, such as wildfires, generally have several negative effects on soil. They cause significant removal of organic matter, deterioration of both structure and porosity, considerable loss of nutrients through volatilisation, ash entrapment in smoke columns, leaching and erosion, and marked alteration of both quantity and specific composition of microbial and soil-dwelling invertebrate communities. However, despite common perceptions, if plants succeed in promptly recolonising the burnt area, the pre-fire level of most properties can be recovered and even enhanced. This work is a review of the up-to-date literature dealing with changes imposed by fires on properties of forest soils. Ecological implications of these changes are described.
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            Neotropical secondary forest succession: changes in structural and functional characteristics

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              The potential for species conservation in tropical secondary forests.

              In the wake of widespread loss of old-growth forests throughout the tropics, secondary forests will likely play a growing role in the conservation of forest biodiversity. We considered a complex hierarchy of factors that interact in space and time to determine the conservation potential of tropical secondary forests. Beyond the characteristics of local forest patches, spatial and temporal landscape dynamics influence the establishment, species composition, and persistence of secondary forests. Prospects for conservation of old-growth species in secondary forests are maximized in regions where the ratio of secondary to old-growth forest area is relatively low, older secondary forests have persisted, anthropogenic disturbance after abandonment is relatively low, seed-dispersing fauna are present, and old-growth forests are close to abandoned sites. The conservation value of a secondary forest is expected to increase over time, as species arriving from remaining old-growth forest patches accumulate. Many studies are poorly replicated, which limits robust assessments of the number and abundance of old-growth species present in secondary forests. Older secondary forests are not often studied and few long-term studies are conducted in secondary forests. Available data indicate that both old-growth and second-growth forests are important to the persistence of forest species in tropical, human-modified landscapes.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Ecology
                J Ecol
                January 2015
                January 2015
                January 07 2015
                : 103
                : 1
                : 67-77
                [1 ]Forest Ecology and Management; Group; Wageningen University; PO Box 47 6700 AA Wageningen The Netherlands
                [2 ]Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia; Av. André Araújo, 2936 69083-000 Manaus Brazil
                [3 ]Department of Soil Quality; Wageningen University; PO Box 47 6700 AA Wageningen The Netherlands
                © 2015


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