Seed Availability as a Limiting Factor in Forest Recovery Processes in Costa Rica

S.M.J. Wijdeven, M.E. Kuzee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


Abandoned pastures and secondary forests are increasingly prominent features of tropical landscapes. Forest regrowth on abandoned pastures is generally slow and virtually limited to regeneration from seeds from external sources, since agricultural activities alter site conditions. We hypothesize that seed availability is a major limiting factor in forest recovery on abandoned pastures. This hypothesis was tested by studying the seed bank, seed rain, and seed predation in a small pasture (1 ha) situated in a forest-pasture mosaic in northwestern Costa Rica. The tree seed density in the pasture seed bank was much lower (21/m2) than the density in the seed bank of a neighboring secondary forest (402/m2). Within a period of five weeks, 23 tree seeds entered the pasture by seed rain. This number is low compared to densities found in closed forests but higher than densities reported in other studies where virtually no seeds were found beyond 20 m from the forest edge. Possibly the small size of the pasture with seed sources nearby and the small-scale landscape mosaic enhance seed dispersal. Predation limits the seed density in pastures, with 42% of the woody species consumed by predators. The low seed density in the seed bank, and hampered recruitment combined with significant losses, pose severe restrictions to forest recovery on abandoned pastures. Moderate land use, and small sized clearings with seed sources nearby may increase the pace of recovery. Nevertheless, forest establishment may still take a considerable time. Thus, enlarging the available pool of species may be a worthwhile management strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-424
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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