Plant Ecology

, 205:261 | Cite as

Forest recovery after swidden cultivation across a 40-year chronosequence in the Atlantic forest of southern Bahia, Brazil

  • Daniel Piotto
  • Florencia Montagnini
  • Wayt Thomas
  • Mark Ashton
  • Chadwick Oliver


Tree species composition and structure of a 40-year chronosequence of secondary forests was compared with old-growth forests in southern Bahia, Brazil. Twelve stands were randomly selected that represented three age classes: 10, 25, and 40 year old with four replications in each class. All stands selected had been established after abandonment from swidden cultivation and were surrounded by old-growth forests. In every stand, ten 0.01-ha transects were established and all stems (≥5 cm diameter at breast height) were measured and identified. Results were compared with the dataset of two neighboring old-growth sites. Mean diameter, total height, and stand basal area increased with age. Number of trees/ha peaked in 40 year old stands. The results showed that secondary forests in this region take much more than 40 years to recover the structure of old-growth forests. In contrast, species richness recovery was rapid with a continuous accumulation of species with age in secondary forests. Species richness and diversity increased with age as did similarity between secondary stands and old-growth stands. More than half of the species found in the 40 year old stands were shared with the neighboring old-growth forests. However, species richness and diversity were higher in old growth sites.


Secondary forest Structure Composition Tree diversity Tropical wet forest 



We thank A. Amorim, R. Rocha, and M. Moreau of Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz and staff of Instituto Floresta Viva, Serra do Conduru State Park, Comissão Executiva do Plano da Lavoura Cacaueira, and Instituto de Estudos Socioambientais do Sul da Bahia. We also thank M. Nahssen, V. da Silva, S. Sousa, and J. Jardim for their assistance during the field work and plant identification. Financial support was provided by Compton Foundation, the Tropical Resources Institute at Yale and Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies “Center for Field Ecology”. R. Chazdon gave valuable comments on a previous version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

11258_2009_9615_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (83 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 83 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Piotto
    • 1
  • Florencia Montagnini
    • 1
  • Wayt Thomas
    • 2
  • Mark Ashton
    • 1
  • Chadwick Oliver
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.The New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA

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