Restoration of Degraded Tropical Forest Ecosystems

If plantation and agroforestry species are chosen with knowledge of their nutrient-use efficiencies and recycling capacities, they can be highly productive and be used in ecosystem restoration projects. The term restoration is generally used for those situations where the intent is to recreate an ecosystem as close as possible to that which originally existed at a particular site, while the term rehabilitation is more specifically used when enough structure is regained to recover at least some productive capacity. For example, the word restoration applies when the intent is to recreate a forest that will be as close as possible to the original forest that existed prior to a disturbance. In contrast, rehabilitation of degraded land often implies that the intention is to recover soils to productive capacity. An example would be to turn a degraded pasture into a commercial or subsistence-oriented agroforestry system or tree plantation.

According to a report by ITTO (2002), some 350 million ha of tropical forest land has been so severely damaged that forests will no longer grow back spontaneously, while a further 500 million ha has forest cover that is either degraded or has regrown after initial deforestation (Table 6.4). Such large areas of damaged forest are a cause of concern, but they also represent a potential resource of immense value. Degraded primary forests, secondary forests, and degraded forestlands usually exist in a complex mosaic that is constantly changing. Each of these conditions, however, has characteristics that must be taken into account when developing management strategies. In the following sections we describe strategies to restore or rehabilitate degraded primary or secondary forest and degraded forestlands.

Table 6.4. Estimated extent of degraded and secondary forests by category in tropical Asia, tropical America, and tropical Africa in the year 2000 (million hectares, rounded to the nearest 5 million). In tropical America, about 38 million ha is classified as secondary forests (second growth forests), while for the other regions it is not possible to distinguish between degraded primary forests and secondary forests. (Source: ITTO 2002)

Table 6.4. Estimated extent of degraded and secondary forests by category in tropical Asia, tropical America, and tropical Africa in the year 2000 (million hectares, rounded to the nearest 5 million). In tropical America, about 38 million ha is classified as secondary forests (second growth forests), while for the other regions it is not possible to distinguish between degraded primary forests and secondary forests. (Source: ITTO 2002)

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