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Keywords:

  • coastal dune forests;
  • millipedes;
  • regeneration;
  • rehabilitation;
  • succession

Abstract

The rehabilitation of disturbed ecosystems through ecological succession should lead to the recovery of indigenous biological assemblages typical of a region. However, rehabilitation may give rise to unusual successional pathways and lead to atypical assemblages. We compared millipede assemblages along a chronosequence of habitats developing in response to a post-mining coastal dune forest rehabilitation program with those developing spontaneously in the same area. Our comparison suggests that active rehabilitation mimics and even surpasses spontaneous successional development. On both chronosequences, the total number of species, as well as the mean density, diversity, and species richness increased, and dominance decreased, with habitat regeneration age. Moreover, the similarity of millipede assemblages on the two chronosequences to those on three sets of reference sites (mature forests) increased with regeneration age, but this recovery of community composition occurred faster on the rehabilitating chronosequence than on the spontaneously regenerating chronosequence. This suggests that successional processes are leading to a recovery of the predisturbed state, but factors like protection from further disturbances, which occur on the spontaneously regenerating chronosequence, is probably important to ensure success. The distance between a regenerating site and a colonization source area apparently affects the direction of community recovery—assemblages on the rehabilitating chronosequence converged faster onto assemblages on closer reference sites than onto those on reference sites farther away.