Forest recovery in abandoned agricultural lands in a karst region of the Dominican Republic
- Cite this article as:
- Rivera, L., Zimmerman, J. & Aide, T. Plant Ecology (2000) 148: 115. doi:10.1023/A:1009825211430
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This study documents the status of forest vegetation in the karst region of Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic, following the abandonment of pastures (≤5 years), young (≤5 years) `conucos' (mixed plantings), old (7–30 years) conucos, and cacao plantations (>25 years). We compared these sites to vegetation characteristics of patches of forest in karst valleys (`old forest'–too old to know their exact land use) and on mogote tops with no recent history of human disturbance. The youngest sites date to when squatters were removed from Los Haitises National Park. Forest structure (density, basal area, and species richness of woody plants ≥1 cm DBH) were all significantly affected by land use. Density was highest in intermediate-aged valley sites (old conucos) and mogote tops, while both basal area and species richness tended to increase with age of abandonment. Although cacao plantations had been abandoned for more than 25 years the species diversity was low, due to continued regeneration of this persistent crop. Abandoned pastures had the greatest nonwoody biomass and were dominated by the fern Nephrolepis multiflora which had completely replaced pasture grasses. An ordination of the woody plant communities separated the mogote tops from valleys, emphasizing the strong control that topography has on the forest community in moist and wet tropical forests on karst substrates. Valley sites were arranged in the ordination in order of their age, suggesting a successional sequence converging on the composition of the `old forest' sites.