Selection of forest species for the rehabilitation of disturbed soils in oil fields in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Jaime Villacís*, Fernando Casanoves, Susana Hang, Saskia Keesstra, Cristina Armas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Soils in the Amazon Basin disturbed by petroleum extraction activities need to be restored to allow for the rehabilitation of these areas and the restoration of the ecosystemservices that these areas can provide. This study explores the performance of saplings of 20 species transplanted to four sites: a paddock and three sites within oil fields that differ in soil substrate contamination and perturbation. In each site we measured sapling survival, possible causes of death, sapling height and diameter at the time of and two years after planting, and the integrated response index.Wealso analyzed the effects of plants on soil properties. Sapling mortalitywas limited,with 17 of the 20 species boasting survival rates of over 80%. Saplings in the control site had a higher mortality rate than those in the oil field sites. This was most likely due to competition with and interference of weeds that were more abundant at the control than other sites. Despite the overall low mortality rate, species performance did vary by site, with plants of Flemingia macrophylla, Myrcia aff. fallax, Piptadenia pteroclada, Platymisciumpinnatum, and Zygia longifolia exhibiting the best performance in terms of survival and growth in oil field sites. At the end of the experiment, soil substrates fromthe oil platform showed increases in pH levels, organic material, Fe, and Zn; whereas substrates contaminated with petroleum showed decreases in hydrocarbon levels ranging from 11 to 22% compared to initial levels before planting. Our results shed light on which forest species are most suitable for the rehabilitation of sites disturbed by activities inherently associatedwith petroleumextraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-770
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Forest restoration
  • Hydrocarbon contaminated soils
  • Rehabilitation of oil fields
  • Sapling performance


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