Intensive Tree Planting Facilitates Tropical Forest Biodiversity and Biomass accumulation in Kibale National Park, Uganda

The extensive area of degraded tropical land and the calls to conserve forest biodiversity and sequester carbon to offset climate change demonstrate the need to restore forest in the tropics. Deforested land is sometimes replanted with fast-growing trees; however, the consequences of intensive replanting on biomass accumulation or plant and animal diversity are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine how intensive replanting affected tropical forest regeneration and biomass accumulation over ten years. We studied reforested sites in Kibale National Park, Uganda, that were degraded in the 1970s and replanted with five native tree species in 1995. We identified and measured the size of planted versus naturally regenerating trees, and felled and weighed matched trees outside the park to calculate region-specific allometric equations for above-ground tree biomass. The role of shrubs and grasses in facilitating or hindering the establishment of trees was evaluated by correlating observed estimates of percent cover to tree biomass. We found 39 tree species naturally regenerating in the restored area in addition to the five originally planted species. Biomass was much higher for planted (15,675kg/ha) than naturally regenerated trees (4560kg/ha), but naturally regenerating tree regrowth was an important element of the landscape. The establishment of tree seedlings initially appeared to be facilitated by shrubs, primarily Acanthus pubescens and the invasive Lantana camara; however, both are expected to hinder tree recruitment in the long-term. Large and small-seeded tree species were found in the replanted area, indicating that bird and mammal dispersers contributed to natural forest restoration. These results demonstrate that intensive replanting can accelerate the natural accumulation of biomass and biodiversity and facilitate the restoration of tropical forest communities. However, the long-term financial costs and ecological benefits of planting and maintaining reforested areas need to be weighed against other potential restoration strategies.
Anthropogenic disturbance; Biomass accumulation; Carbon offset; Tree planting; Restoration; Regeneration; Lantana camara; Acanthus pubescens
Omeja, P. A., Chapman, C. A., Obua, J., Lwanga, J. S., Jacob, A. L., Wanyama, F., & Mugenyi, R. (2011). Intensive tree planting facilitates tropical forest biodiversity and biomass accumulation in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Forest Ecology and Management, 261(3), 703-709.