Succesional change and resilience of a very dry tropical deciduous forest following shifting agriculture

E.E. Lebrija Trejos, F.J.J.M. Bongers, E. Pérez-García, J. Meave

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133 Citations (Scopus)


We analyzed successional patterns in a very dry tropical deciduous forest by using 15 plots differing in age after abandonment and contrasted them to secondary successions elsewhere in the tropics. We used multivariate ordination and nonlinear models to examine changes in composition and structure and to estimate forest recovery rates and resilience. A shrub phase characterized early succession (0¿3 yr); afterwards, the tree Mimosa acantholoba became dominant. Below its canopy, sprouts and seed-regenerated individuals of mature forest species slowly accumulated. Canopy height, plant density, and crown cover stabilized in less than 15 yr, whereas species richness, diversity, and basal area continued to increase. The pioneer species group has very low diversity and the long-lived pioneer phase typical of humid forests is absent; species composition may therefore recover soon as suggested by convergence toward mature forest species composition. The time trend of plant density also differed from humid forests for it lacked its characteristic density decline, presumably because of differences in regeneration mechanisms between very dry and other less water-stressed forest types. As opposed to the prevailing hypothesis, resilience was not higher than in moister forests, and thus factors other than structure relative simplicity must be accounted for when assessing resilience
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-431
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • secondary succession
  • vegetation structure
  • species composition
  • abandoned pastures
  • seedling dynamics
  • tree seedlings
  • soil fertility
  • rain-forests
  • west-africa
  • costa-rica


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