Classification Based on Forest Function

Forest function may be a more important factor than structure for managing tropical forests for wood production. The most important functions in tropical forests are those related to diversity and mutualisms, nutrient cycling, and energy flow (Chap. 2).

• A diverse forest highly dependent upon mutualisms for pollination must be managed differently from a forest that is pollinated primarily by wind. If mutualisms are not considered, the remaining trees may not be able to reproduce.

• A forest on nutrient-poor soil, where surficial root mats are important in recycling nutrients, must be managed much less intensively than a forest on nutrient-rich soil. If disturbance to the root mat is not minimized during logging operations, nutrient losses will be critical.

• A forest at high elevations, where energy flow is low (low rates of production and decomposition), must be managed differently from a lowland forest where production and decomposition are high. Logging cannot be as frequent and care must be taken to preserve the undecomposed litter on the forest floor, to minimize loss of nutrients.

Because of the lack of understanding of how tropical forests function, functional characteristics are rarely used as a basis for classification of tropical forests. More commonly, they are classified by the climate in which they occur, by species, by successional stage, or by the soil type on which they occur.

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