Recovery of floristic diversity, composition and structure of regrowth forests on fallow lands: implications for conservation and restoration of degraded forest lands in Laos
E. Yirdaw, A. Monge Monge, D. Austin, I. Toure
New Forest, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-019-09711-2
Abstract: In Laos, there are extensive shifting cultivation areas and regrowth forests spontaneously established on fallow lands. The aims of the study were to conduct a comparative study of old-growth and regrowth forests in terms of structure, woody species diversity and composition as well as to investigate the potential role of regrowth forests in the conservation and restoration of degraded forest lands in Laos and the tropics in general. Systematic plot sampling was used to survey the floristic diversity, species composition and structure of old-growth and regrowth forests. Concentric circular plots with an area of 200 m2 and 500 m2 were laid on line transects. A total of 24 plots were sampled from two sites. In comparison to regrowth forests, old-growth forests had higher structural heterogeneity because of higher canopy height variations, vertical stratification, and tree sizes and their variations. Species richness and diversity indices values were similar, but abundance and species composition were significantly different between old-growth and regrowth forests. It appears that species richness recovers first followed by forest structure and species composition. Regrowth forests are important for in situ conservation of tropical biodiversity and they can also serve as a conduit for the restoration of degraded lands and forests. Regrowth forests provide habitats, serve as buffer zones around the fragmented old-growth forests, function as source of propagules, and enhance landscape connectivity. Utilization of regrowth forests for restoration purposes is comparatively inexpensive. Regrowth forests should be given the due considerations in the national forest conservation and restoration policy of Laos.