Agro-successional restoration as a strategy to facilitate tropical forest recovery

Daniel L. M. Vieira, Karen D. Holl, and Fabiana M. Peneireiro

Vieira etal. argue that “incorporating a range of agroecology and agroforestry techniques as a transition phase early in forest restoration could be used more widely to overcome socioeconomic and ecological obstacles to restoring these lands.” The importance of this paper transcends the scope of forest restoration, however, as the argument at hand addresses the key issues of “human vs. ecosystem” benefits and the limitations of “restoration policies” that afflict the vast majority of restoration projects we have been discussing. Vieira etal. indicate, for example, how agroecological practices can defray the costs of both the initial stage of restoration as well as its continued management (including the monitoring of progress and success so frequently and notably absent from “standard” restoration efforts).

Yet the paper is also weak in its consideration of socioeconomic and environmental problems associated with “plantations of fast growing, often non-native, tree species for pulpwood” (such as eucalyptus). While possibly conforming to their general prescription of successional forest restoration, its practice falls far outside the goals of harmonizing ecological restoration with the provisions for human livelihood – in fact, peasant movements in Vieira’s own country accuse the spread of reforestation-eucalyptus of forcing out sustainable agro-forestry and replacing it with “green deserts.”

Gustavo Oliveira

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