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06 Nov 2013: Disturbed Tropical Forests
Are Slow to Regain Plant Biodiversity

Regrowing tropical forest in Brazil
Ricardo Solar
A regrowing tropical forest in Brazil
In tropical forests that are regrowing after major disturbances, the ability to store carbon recovers more quickly than plant biodiversity, researchers from the U.K. have found. However, even after 80 years, recovering forests store less carbon than old-growth forests, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This is likely because regenerating forests are often dominated by small, fast-growing trees and it may take centuries for larger trees, which hold more carbon, to become established, according to scientists from the Center for Ecology & Hydrology and Bournemouth University, who studied more than 600 recovering tropical forests. Tree species that are hallmarks of old-growth forests, and are often quite vulnerable to extinction, were rare or missing in the regrowing forests, the study showed. Since regenerating forests are often located far from old-growth forests and surrounded by farmland, it may be difficult for animals to move seeds between the forests, which may account for the lower plant biodiversity, researchers said. They suggest planting trees throughout a wider landscape to provide better connections between old and regrowing forests. More than half of all tropical forests have been cleared for agriculture by logged or burning in the recent past; regrowing some of those forests is important for maintaining tree biodiversity and carbon storage.

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