Seedling and Sprout Response to Slash-and-Burn Agriculture in a Tropical Deciduous Forest1


  • 1

    Received 16 May 96; revision accepted 2 June 1997.


Survival and growth of seedlings and sprouts were assessed in three plots for 16 mo following the slashing and burning of a tropical deciduous forest in Jalisco, Mexico. We encountered a total of 47 species: 21 seedling species and 35 sprout species. Calliandra formosa and Piptadenia flava were the most common seedling species; Bursera arborea, Cordia alliodora, and Piptadenia constricta were the most common sprouts. Colubrina triflora, Diphysa occidentalis, and Cnidoscolus spinosus had limited sprouting ability. Twenty-six species were represented by one seedling or one sprout. Thirty-eight percent of the seedlings were tree species, 59 percent were shrub species, and 2 percent were vines species. In contrast, 86 percent of the sprouts were from trees and 13 percent from shrubs. One year after the initial measurements, 29 percent of the seedlings and 13 percent of the sprouts were dead. Each of the seedling means (number of stems/individual, height and diameter of the tallest stem, and elliptical crown area) was significantly smaller (P < 0.05) than that of sprouts at all three measurement periods, but relative growth rates were similar. Total canopy area of seedlings had a larger relative increase than did the canopy area of sprouts. The presence of seedlings increased species diversity compared to calculated diversity excluding seedlings. Timing of fruit dispersal in relation to the date of burning and the high number of Leguminosae species in the forest appeared to favor seedling establishment for some species.