Early recruitment dynamics in tropical restoration

Authors

  • Marinés de la Peña-Domene,

    1. Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City 04510 Mexico
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago (m/c 066), Chicago, Illinois 60607 USA
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  • Cristina Martínez-Garza,

    1. Centro de Investigación en Biodiversidad y Conservación, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca, Morelos 62209 Mexico
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  • Henry F. Howe

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago (m/c 066), Chicago, Illinois 60607 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor: R. L. Knight.

Abstract

Unassisted secondary succession in abandoned tropical pastures often results in species-poor forests of pioneer trees that persist for decades. We characterize recruitment rates of woody vegetation in planting treatments during the first 60 months of experimental restoration on thin, eroded soils at Los Tuxtlas, southern Mexico. We test the hypothesis that recruitment of later-successional trees is greater in fenced plots planted with native trees than in fenced controls that simulate natural succession, and further that recruitment of such species would be greater in plots planted with animal-dispersed trees than in those planted with wind-dispersed trees.

Results indicated much greater recruitment of later-successional animal-dispersed trees in planted plots as compared with controls. Three censuses per year recorded 960 recruited individuals of 44 species of trees and shrubs from 20–60 months after cattle exclusion. Ninety-six percent of recruits were not of planted species. Repeated-measures analyses of variance indicated that recruited communities included more species of pioneers than of later-successional trees and shrubs, with more individuals and species dispersed by animals than by wind. Recruitment of pioneers did not differ between control and planted plots. Later-successional recruits dispersed by animals accumulated >10 times faster in planted than control plots, with apparent acceleration after planted Cecropia obtusifolia and Ficus yoponensis first produced fleshy fruits 48 months after cattle exclusion. Sparse later-successional wind-dispersed recruits did not differ by treatment. Our preliminary results over the first five years after cattle exclusion indicate that planted stands clearly accelerate succession through accumulation of later-successional trees and shrubs dispersed by animals.

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