Agro-Successional Restoration as a Strategy to Facilitate Tropical Forest Recovery

Daniel L. M. Vieira, Karen D. Holl, Fabiana M. Peneireiro
This is definitely an important paper for anyone hoping to pursue restoration in developing – and other tropical - countries, but it also presents a bit of an alternative paradigm for those of us hoping to practice in places like the US. Using the authors’ methods, restoration is accomplished by encouraging farmers to cultivate degraded lands using various agro-forestry systems that transition through time into multi-layered ecosystems. The solutions presented here range from cultivating the land using mainly novel, food and timber producing species – so that the land can support long-term harvesting, to simply intercropping native primary succession tree species with annual food crops. In each system, the degraded lands, as they transition through time into complex systems, are planted and maintained by the farmer’s own labor. This is a long-term approach that aims to benefit both the farmer, who harvests, and the conservationist. Great goals, smart methods, and much more realistic in many cases than encouraging restoration for its own sake.
That said, the solutions presented are far from complete. For instance, because a farmer in most cases will eventually transition off the restored land, these methods can only be used on properties owned by larger organizations. And, as Gustavo mentioned below, the use of non-native species (especially timber trees) comes with inherent dangers. Also, in temperate climates these systems are far from well developed and it is even harder to provide incentives for farmers to cultivate degraded land. But the focus is great: man and the environment as mutual beneficiaries. These ideas should be discussed and expanded upon.

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