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Second Growth

The Promise of Tropical Forest Regeneration in an Age of Deforestation

Second Growth

The Promise of Tropical Forest Regeneration in an Age of Deforestation

For decades, conservation and research initiatives in tropical forests have focused almost exclusively on old-growth forests because scientists believed that these “pristine” ecosystems housed superior levels of biodiversity. With Second Growth, Robin L. Chazdon reveals those assumptions to be largely false, bringing to the fore the previously overlooked counterpart to old-growth forest: second growth.

Even as human activities result in extensive fragmentation and deforestation, tropical forests demonstrate a great capacity for natural and human-aided regeneration. Although these damaged landscapes can take centuries to regain the characteristics of old growth, Chazdon shows here that regenerating—or second-growth—forests are vital, dynamic reservoirs of biodiversity and environmental services. What is more, they always have been.

With chapters on the roles these forests play in carbon and nutrient cycling, sustaining biodiversity, providing timber and non-timber products, and integrated agriculture, Second Growth not only offers a thorough and wide-ranging overview of successional and restoration pathways, but also underscores the need to conserve, and further study, regenerating tropical forests in an attempt to inspire a new age of local and global stewardship.

472 pages | 31 color plates, 26 halftones, 31 line drawings, 22 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Biological Sciences: Botany, Ecology, Natural History, Tropical Biology and Conservation


“A leading voice in arguing that large-scale forest regrowth can help to solve some of the world’s problems. . . . Decades of watching the Costa Rican forests recover have taught Chazdon that, at least in areas that still have healthy forests nearby to supply seeds, the main thing human beings need to do is just get out of the way. After all, forests were recovering from fires and other natural calamities long before people ever came along to chop them down.”

Justin Gillis | New York Times

“As policy makers come to grips with . . . ecological uncertainty, they are finding Chazdon’s recent book, Second Growth, all the more valuable. Five years in the writing and published last year, the tome is a kind of guide to restoration, synthesizing decades of research and explaining how tropical forests can come back on their own—and what to do if they don’t. ‘It’s an opus; it covers all you would want to know and could imagine you want to know about secondary forests,’ says Thomas Rudel, a rural sociologist at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey. ‘There’s nothing quite like [it].’ The book . . . arrived at a timely moment, just as large-scale forest restoration was gaining momentum.”

Elizabeth Pennisi | Science

Second Growth combines an in-depth review with an eloquent case for the importance of understanding, promoting, and managing forest regeneration in contexts ranging from climate change to provision of ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation. In doing so, it may help to meet those challenges by providing evidence to ensure that the value of secondary forests is recognized. It will certainly stimulate the science needed to support practical action.”

Valerie Kapos | Science

“A complete review covering topics from ancient forest management to the effect of global economy on the fate of local forests. . . . Chazdon states in the preface that she wants to deliver an urgent message about forests: they are regenerating and this regeneration is malleable and it can be for our benefit. The message is remarkably delivered. This book integrates patterns that occur in the entire gradient from wet to dry forests. . . . Second Growth has answered most of my questions and has raised a thousand more, as good books and research always do. . . . This well-produced book . . . will be enormously useful for students, professors, and practitioners of forest restoration and management.”

Cristina Martínez-Garza, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Mexico | Ecology

“Chazdon provides a remarkable compilation of our understanding of naturally regenerating forests across the tropics in this book. She draws upon many fields of knowledge—paleoecology, ecosystem ecology, socio-economic and political ecology, forest management—to convey that regenerating tropical forests are socio-ecological systems that play a critical role in human and ecosystem health. The book is rich with case studies and examples from all over the globe, and provides a much-needed synthesis of second growth in the tropics. . . . Each time I open this book I find something new and interesting. For those working in tropical forests, this text will be an essential reference that not only fills an important gap in our understanding of tropical forest regeneration, but also provides a solid grounding for their conservation and future management.”


“Throughout the book, Chazdon returns to the central theme that tropical forests are highly resilient ecosystems whose recent histories are inextricably intertwined with people. Contrary to the dichotomous view of ‘primeval’ old-growth versus ‘degraded’ second-growth forests, Chazdon repeatedly and convincingly makes the case that today's tropical forests reflect legacies of human interactions dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. . . . Second Growth is truly extraordinary in its breadth, depth, and synthesis of a voluminous literature. The book covers regenerating forest ecology, dynamics, and socioecological linkages throughout the tropics and is exhaustively researched; there are over 100 pages of references.”

Nicole L. Michel, University of Saskatchewan | Conservation Biology

“A very thorough and holistic review of the ecology of secondary tropical forests. For many years, studies of tropical forest biodiversity tend to have been concentrated on primary forest. Here, Chazdon argues well and forcefully that second-growth forests are also an important reservoir of biodiversity and that they are exciting ecosystems in which to do research. . . . A tour de force—absolutely brilliant. Anyone interested in tropical forests, their conservation and their restoration will want a copy of this book.”

R. H. Marrs, University of Liverpool | Biological Conservation

“A thoroughly researched, authoritative, and comprehensive volume, drawing on hundreds of cited publications. . .  This is an upbeat tour de force, which relentlessly drives home the message that ‘tropical forests are dynamic and resilient.’ It takes a glass-half-full perspective that urges us to see partially disturbed forests not as ‘degraded,’ but as ‘regenerating.’ It should be on the book shelf of anyone starting out or already working on forest dynamics and restoration ecology in the tropics—graduate students designing thesis projects, their supervisors, the planners and implementers of REDD++ projects, managers of protected areas, etc. All in all, an original and powerful work, that is likely to remain the definitive textbook in its field for many years to come. An empty niche has been filled.”

Kate Hardwick, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Stephen Elliott, Chiang Mai University, Thailand | Restoration Ecology

“Chazdon takes us through the ecological stages of forests developing on old agricultural land, selectively logged areas, and land damaged by fire and hurricanes. Then she explores how these regenerating forests change in structure, species composition, and ecosystem properties, and finally what the future holds, all backed up by over a hundred pages of references. I find her message very compelling that these secondary forests have a high intrinsic ecological value. It is not always sugary good news—large mammals can take a long while to return unless there is nearby undisturbed forest, but it’s heartwarming to read this upbeat book that shows that it’s not all doom and gloom in the tropics. Everyone should read this.”

Bulletin of the British Ecological Society

Second Growth provides broad coverage of a subject that, despite its importance, has received less popular attention than ‘old growth’ tropical rain forests. Chazdon does an excellent job of synthesizing key ideas and bringing together recent research on tropical forest regeneration. . . . Chazdon’s work is a valuable resource, providing both a solid review for those with knowledge in the field and a starting point for those new to the topic. . . . Highly recommended.”

B. D. Orr, Michigan Technological University | Choice

“This book is a comprehensive treatment of our current understanding of the ecology of regrowth of forests after land clearance in the tropics. There is no one better than Chazdon to write such a volume and I suspect she has used this publication as a culmination of her own work over the last 20 years directly studying and observing the dynamics of second growth in Central America. . . . This book is excellent and the first of its kind to really synthesize the literature on regeneration and recovery of second growth forests. For this Chazdon has done a very good job. . . . A definitive textbook and a great effort. Chazdon is to be commended.”

Mark S. Ashton, Yale University | Quarterly Review of Biology

“Extremely comprehensive. Though it is not particularly lengthy, running to 316 pages of text, it covers a huge range of topics relating to forest regeneration from traditional knowledge and prehistoric forest transformations by humans to recovery pathways from fire, landslides, volcanic eruptions, logging, and agricultural use. . . . Chazdon masterfully weaves together anthropology, archaeology and ecology in the discussion of prehistorical impacts of humans on tropical forests. . . . If you are interested in the dynamics of forests in any way this book is essential reading. There is no better summary of current thinking on tropical forest succession out there.”

Ecology for a Crowded Planet

“Impressive and very timely given the growing recognition of the importance of secondary forests in conserving biodiversity. Second Growth provides a very thorough review of the human impacts on tropical forests over several centuries and more recently, and on the ecology of forest regeneration after a range of disturbances. It is a well-researched and valuable contribution to the literature on tropical secondary forests.”

Karen D. Holl | University of California, Santa Cruz

“A tremendous survey. Chazdon draws on paleobotany, ecology, natural history, and policy and forest management to make the case for the potential of forest regeneration. Second Growth is astounding in its breadth and depth.”

S. Joseph Wright | Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

“What a wonderful book! Secondary forests have been ignored for too long, and Second Growth brings together a wealth of material from across the Latin American, African, and Asian tropics to provide a synthesis of what we know about how they can develop and what influences their succession. Sadly, even optimists must accept that primary or old-growth forests will continue to shrink. This means secondary forests are likely to replace them in the future as the main repositories of biodiversity and sources of many ecosystem services. This book is destined to become a key text for those protecting and managing these new forests.”

David Lamb | University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

“At last, an authoritative and very readable account of the most neglected aspect of tropical forest ecology: the vast areas of second growth that if restored and managed properly will yield enormous human and conservation benefit. Chazdon’s book fills a yawning gap in tropical ecology and land management. A great and important work, Second Growth will be an enduring scholarly masterpiece.”

Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University | Senior Fellow, the United Nations Foundation

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Chapter 1

Perceptions of Tropical Forests and Natural Regeneration

1.1    Viewing Forests as a Cycle

1.2    The Resilience of Tropical Forests

1.3    Forest Regeneration, Succession, and Forest Degradation

1.4    The Geographic Extent of Deforestation and Forest Regeneration across the Tropics

1.5    The Tropical Forests of the Future

Chapter 2

Ancient Human Legacies in Tropical Forest Landscapes

2.1    Overview

2.2    The Peopling of the Tropics

2.3    Impacts of Early Hunter-Gatherer Societies

2.4    The Development of Agriculture

2.5    Holocene Climate Variability, Forest Change, and Agricultural Expansion

2.6    Conclusion

Chapter 3

Landscape Transformation and Tropical Forest Regeneration through Prehistory

3.1    Overview

3.2    Earthworks and Landscape Transformations

3.3    Prehistoric Fires: Synergies between Natural and Human Causes

3.4    Ancient Soil Modifications

3.5    The Scale of Prehistoric Human Impacts in the Neotropics

3.6    Paleoecological Reconstruction of Tropical Forest Regeneration

3.7    Conclusion

Chapter 4

Tropical Forest Dynamics and Disturbance Regimes

4.1    Overview

4.2    Disturbance Regimes in Tropical Forest Regions

4.3    Gap Dynamics and the Forest Growth Cycle

4.4    Detection of Tropical Forest Disturbance

4.5    Are Old-Growth Tropical Forests Stable?

4.6    Conclusion

Chapter 5

Successional Pathways and Forest Transformations

5.1    Overview

5.2    Variability in Successional Pathways

5.3    Successional Stages and Species Classification

5.4    Forest Definitions and Concepts

5.5    Approaches to Studying Tropical Forest Succession

5.6    Conclusion

Chapter 6

Tropical Forest Succession on Newly Created Substrates

6.1    Overview

6.2    Biological Legacies and Local Resource Availability

6.3    Colonization and Succession on Landslides

6.4    Succession following Volcanic Eruptions

6.5    Riverbank Succession

6.6    Conclusion

Chapter 7

Forest Regeneration following Agricultural Land Uses

7.1    Overview

7.2    Effects of Land Use and Biological Legacies on Propagule Availability and Modes of Regeneration

7.3    Effects of Land Use on Site Quality and Resource Availability

7.4    Conclusion

Chapter 8

Forest Regeneration following Hurricanes and Fires

8.1    Overview

8.2    Hurricane Damage and Regeneration

8.3    Tropical Forest Regeneration after Single and Recurrent Fires

8.4    Conclusion

Chapter 9

Forest Regeneration following Selective Logging and Land-Use Synergisms

9.1    Overview

9.2    Harvesting Intensity, Forest Disturbance, and Postlogging Forest Regeneration

9.3    Effects of Logging on Animal Abundance and Diversity

9.4    Consequences of Land-Use Synergisms for Forest Regeneration

9.5    Conclusion

Chapter 10

Functional Traits and Community Assembly during Secondary Succession

10.1  Overview

10.2  Environmental Gradients during Succession

10.3  Successional Changes in Life-Form Composition

10.4  Functional Traits of Early and Late Successional Species

10.5  Environmental Filtering, Functional Diversity, and Community Assembly during Succession

10.6  A General Scheme for Community Assembly during Secondary Succession

10.7  Conclusion

Chapter 11

Recovery of Ecosystem Functions during Forest Regeneration

11.1  Overview

11.2  Loss of Nutrients and Carbon during Conversion of Forest to Agriculture

11.3  Accumulation of Carbon and Nutrients during Forest Regeneration

11.4  Nutrient Cycling and Nutrient Limitation

11.5  Hydrology and Water Balance

11.6  Conclusion

Chapter 12

Animal Diversity and Plant-Animal Interactions in Regenerating Forests

12.1  Overview

12.2  Animal Diversity in Regenerating Forests

12.3  Plant-Herbivore Interactions during Forest Regeneration

12.4  Seed Dispersal and Predation during Forest Regeneration

12.5  Pollination in Regenerating Forests

12.6  Conclusion

Chapter 13

Tropical Reforestation Pathways

13.1  Overview

13.2  Reforestation Goals and Decisions

13.3  Reforestation through Management of Forest Fallows

13.4  Ecological Forest Restoration in the Tropics

13.5  Recovery of Biodiversity during Reforestation

13.6  Recovery of Ecosystem Properties during Reforestation

13.7  Conclusion

Chapter 14

Regenerating Forests in Tropical Landscapes

14.1  Overview

14.2  Land-Use Transitions and Forest Transitions

14.3  The Landscape Context of Forest Regeneration

14.4  Socioecological Drivers of Tropical Reforestation

14.5  Enhancing Forest Regeneration and Human Livelihoods in the Landscape Matrix

14.6  Conclusion

Chapter 15

Synthesis: The Promise of Tropical Forest Regeneration in an Age of Deforestation

15.1  The Power of Forest Regeneration

15.2  Tropical Forest Change and Resilience

15.3  The Current and Future Value of Regenerating Tropical Forests

15.4  New Approaches to Promoting Forest Regeneration




Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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