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Keywords:

  • aboveground biomass;
  • Brazil;
  • carbon sequestration;
  • deforestation;
  • Oxisol;
  • pasture;
  • quadratic mean;
  • self thinning;
  • soil nutrients;
  • tropical ecosystem;
  • Vismia

Abstract

Nearly all published rates of secondary forest (SF) regrowth for Amazonia are inferred from chronosequences. We examined SF regrowth on abandoned pastures over a 4-year period to determine if measured rates of forest recovery differ from chronosequence predictions. We studied the emergence, development and death of over 1300 stems in 10 SFs representing three age classes (<1–5, 6–10 and 11–14 years old). Mean tree biomass accumulation in both the <1–5 and 6–10 years old (4.4 and 5.7 Mg ha−1 yr−1, respectively) abandoned pastures was lower than predicted and deviated significantly (57% and 41%) from rates estimated from the chronosequence. The older SFs, with a mean growth rate of 9.9 Mg ha−1 yr−1 followed the rate predicted by the chronosequence. Understocking was the primary cause of low biomass recovery rates in the youngest forests; although the youngest stands had a diameter at breast height increment three times the oldest stands, the youngest stands lacked sufficient density to cumulatively produce high biomass accumulation rates. Four years of measurement indicated that the youngest stands had developed 59% of the stems measured in the older stands during the same time period. The 6–10-year-old stands were rapidly self-thinning and approached stem density values measured in the same aged stands at the onset of the study. Mortality was high for all stands, with 54% of the original stems remaining after 4 years in intermediate-aged stands. The forests were dominated by the tree Vismia, which represented 55–66% of the biomass in all stands. The Vismia share of the biomass was decreasing over time, with other genera replacing the pioneer. Our measured rates of regrowth indicate that generalized estimates of forest regrowth through chronosequence studies will overestimate forest regrowth for the youngest forests that were under land use for longer time-periods before abandonment. Certified Emission Reductions under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto protocol should consider these results when predicting and compensating for carbon sequestered under natural forest management.