Comparing successional agroforestry systems to natural regeneration of secondary forest stands in the Mata Atlântica of southern Bahia, Brazil
Universidade Federal do Sul da Bahia (UFSB)
Centro de Pesquisas do Cacao (CEPLAC/CEPEC)
Fields of Interest:
Succession agroforestry, Ethnobotanical economies
The cacao (Theobroma cacao) growing region of southern Bahia holds more endemic species and greater species richness than any other part of the Atlantic Forest—one of the most biodiverse forest in the world (Thomas et al. 1998). However, overexploitation and urban and agricultural expansion over the past 45 years has destroyed up to 93% of the original forest cover (Tabarelli et al. 2005, IUCN 2000). Since the 1960s, researchers have suggested biodiverse agroecological systems mimic native ecosystems by increasing species diversity, promoting complex vertical structures, reducing management intensity and inputs, and diversifying yields (Malézieux 2011, McNeely 2004, Ewel 1999). Studies on the shade tree component of cabrucas have shown that these agroforestry systems have high structural and floristic diversity (including many endemic and endangered tree species) in comparison to other agricultural systems (Sambuichi et al. 2008). How do late successional agroforestry systems structurally and functionally compare to late successional phases of secondary forest regeneration? My study compared the results of a late successional secondary forest in the Atlantic Forest (+40 yrs since agricultural fallow) to trends in floristic composition, structure, and key functional traits of all plants ≥5cm dbh in late successional cabruca stands (+40 yrs). Preliminary results suggest that while cabrucas are greatly simplified in structure, the dominant understory species hold similar functional characteristics as those found in the native forest. Cabrucas can be potentially managed for increased biodiversity by planting economically valuable species in available vertical gaps in the strata, facilitating the conservation of biological diversity and natural resources, regenerating degraded agricultural fallows adjacent to native forest stands, while addressing economic pressures faced by local communities.