Communities of Trees Along a Tropical Forest Restoration Gradient
Owiny, Arthur A.
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Increasing rates of deforestation in tropical forests have been linked to agriculturalists. A critical concern generating debate is how well communities of trees recover into a more species rich ecosystem after restoration planting. The aim of the study was to evaluate the pattern of recovery of communities of tree, assess the influence of Acanthus pubescens, Lantana camara and Pennisetum purpureum, on the recovery as well as how restoration planting facilitates recruitment of other native tree seedlings along a gradient of forest restoration in Kibale National Park, Uganda after evictions of illegal settlers. We studied six restoration forests ranging in age from 3 to 16 years, naturally regenerating and three primary forests. Our results showed that recovery with natural regeneration was more effective than restoration planting although the latter enhanced recruitment of other native tree seedling. Tree recovery was generally correlated with age so that species density and diversity increased although at different rates. A reverse pattern was found for dominance but no clear pattern was found for tree density (individual/ha). Communities of tree showed directional patterns of change however community composition were still distinct among the different forests. A. pubescens, L. camara and P. purpureum negatively correlated with species density, tree density and diversity but a positive correlation was found for dominance. Restoration planting can reestablish forests with high species density, tree density and diversity, but this is dependent on age and the extent of the herbs, grasses and shrubs cover in tropical forests.