Rainforest destruction is happening at an alarming rate around the world, but new research indicates that once these clear cut lands are abandoned, tropical forests can re-establish themselves remarkably quickly.
Researchers from Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands analyzed 77 secondary forest sites across central and south America and west Africa. Secondary forest sites refer to places where clear cut land has been left to rewild itself. The researchers found that on these plots, it takes just 20 years for forests to recover 78 percent of old-growth forest attributes.
The forest areas analyzed were at all different stages of regrowth, ranging from just a few years to 120 years since deforestation initially occurred. They found that soil bounces back most quickly, taking just 10 years to recover, while plant species and biodiversity takes between 25 and 60 years.
Secondary forests make up over 28 percent of tropical forests in central and south America, so these sites are critical for carbon capture and protecting biodiversity. This research indicates that even after destruction, tropical forests are incredibly resilient.
“These results are promising and highlight that natural regeneration and assisted natural regeneration are excellent restoration strategies in many cases,” said Virginia Tech scientist J. Leighton Reid.
Source study: Science – Multidimensional tropical forest recovery