Abstract

Forests that regrow naturally on abandoned fields are important for restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services, but can they also preserve the distinct regional tree floras? Using the floristic composition of 1215 early successional forests (≤20 years) in 75 human-modified landscapes across the Neotropic realm, we identified 14 distinct floristic groups, with a between-group dissimilarity of 0.97. Floristic groups were associated with location, bioregions, soil pH, temperature seasonality, and water availability. Hence, there is large continental-scale variation in the species composition of early successional forests, which is mainly associated with biogeographic and environmental factors but not with human disturbance indicators. This floristic distinctiveness is partially driven by regionally restricted species belonging to widespread genera. Early secondary forests contribute therefore to restoring and conserving the distinctiveness of bioregions across the Neotropical realm, and forest restoration initiatives should use local species to assure that these distinct floras are maintained.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabn1767
JournalScience advances
Volume8
Issue number26
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

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