Areas cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture recover faster when adjacent to a large block of untouched forest, but may take decades to regain a majority of their biodiversity after tree-felling, according to a new review of ecological studies, published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science, an open access journal.
Teegalapalli Karthik of Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore, India and colleagues synthesized a collection of studies that have examined recovery of plants, birds and mammals following shifting cultivation. They found that in general, pioneer soft wood tree species recover relatively faster, but mature forest tree species, particularly endemic species, take several decades following suspension of cultivation to rebound. Birds usually recovered to at least 50 percent of their original biodiversity within 25 years of agricultural abandonment, but analysis of mammal recovery times was compounded by the effects of hunting, a practice closely associated with shifting cultivation.
Shifting cultivation in Suriname. Photo by Rhett A Butler.
The authors conclude that recovery can be “accelerated when relatively large forest tracts adjoin a shifting cultivation landscape, in comparison with recovery in sites with shorter fallow cycles in the absence of contiguous forests, which act as sources for recolonization of fauna and vegetation.”
CITATION: Teegalapalli K., Gopi, G. V. and Prasanna K. Samal. 2009. Forest recovery following shifting cultivation: an overview of existing research Full Text PDF. Tropical Conservation Science Vol.2(4):374-387.