Evaluating climber cutting as a strategy to restore degraded tropical forests
Ricardo G. César ; Karen D. Holl ; Vanessa J. Girão ; Felipe N.A. Mello ; Edson Vidal
A substantial share of the remaining tropical forest cover is represented by historically degraded fragments exposed to severe edge effects where ruderal plants proliferate vigorously and may arrest succession. We tested climber plant cutting as strategy to restore a semideciduous tropical forest remnant that is dominated by ruderal climbers. We compared control (unmanaged) plots with plots subjected to climber cutting at 1-m height with recutting one (after 8 months) or three times (8 24 and 36 months). We monitored: 1) tree and shrub biomass gain and canopy openness for three years; 2) tree and shrub growth and recruitment of regenerating seedlings for one year; and 3) planted seedling survival for two years. Climber cutting increased biomass gain by ~ 51% for smaller trees and shrubs (1.58 = dbh < 5 cm) only regardless of the number of re-cuts. Canopy openness increased following climber cutting but recovered after ten months due to rapid growth of the tree canopies. Growth of regenerating seedlings but not abundance was favored by climber cutting. Initial cutting of climbers enhanced survival of enrichment plantings but this benefit declined with canopy re-occupation by tree foliage. Although longer-term research is needed cutting ruderal climbers in degraded forest remnants was shown to be a promising approach to enhance forest regeneration and carbon sequestration justifying its consideration in the restoration agenda as a complementary activity to increasing forest cover in former agricultural lands.