In This Article Secondary Forests in Tropical Environments

  • Introduction
  • Definitions of Secondary Forests vis-à-vis Other Forest Types
  • Secondary Forests and Forest Transition Theory
  • Secondary Succession
  • Mapping Secondary Forests
  • Biodiversity Values
  • Socioeconomic Values
  • Land Sharing and Land Sparing Debates
  • Restoration

Environmental Science Secondary Forests in Tropical Environments
by
Lian Pin Koh
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199363445-0016

Introduction

Secondary forests are becoming a biologically and economically important land cover on Earth as ever more primary forests are being logged and converted. Given the growing dominance of secondary forests as a global land cover, its concept and definition have become the subjects of recent scientific research and debate. Secondary forests are a dynamic land cover that is constantly changing through a successional process. Forest Transition Theory, which posits a general decline in forest cover followed by reforestation, may help researchers better appreciate the environmental implications of secondary forests vis-à-vis other land cover across multiple spatial and temporal scales. This article provides an overview of secondary forests with regards to its definition and delineation, biodiversity and socioeconomic values, progression over time, controversies, and conservation.

Definitions of Secondary Forests vis-à-vis Other Forest Types

The works cited in this section deal with the definition of secondary forests in relation to other forest types. The first paper, Corlett 1994, provides an overview of why it is important to have an unambiguous definition of secondary forests. Chokkalingam and de Jong 2001 reviews several existing definitions and presents a broad working definition of secondary forests. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2003 and Convention on Biological Diversity present current definitions of secondary forests adopted by major international research and policy institutions. Sasaki and Putz 2009 describes the importance of forest definition for developing effective strategies to mitigate global environmental change. Heckenberger, et al. 2003; Malhi, et al. 2013; and Willis, et al. 2004 present evidence that contemporary “primary” forests had in fact been disturbed to various degrees in the past.

  • Chokkalingam, Unna, and Wil de Jong. 2001. Secondary forest: A working definition and typology. International Forestry Review 3:19–26.

    E-mail Citation »

    Presents working definition of secondary forests.

  • Convention on Biological Diversity. Definitions.

    E-mail Citation »

    Presents working definitions of various forest types, including secondary forests, adopted by major international research and policy institutions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Conservation and Monitoring Centre, the Center for International Forestry Research, and the World Resources Institute.

  • Corlett, Richard T. 1994. What is secondary forest? Journal of Tropical Ecology 10:445–447.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0266467400008129E-mail Citation »

    Provides a good overview of the problems of defining what a secondary forest is, and presents arguments for why it is important to do so.

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2003. Proceedings on tropical secondary forest management in Africa: Reality and perspectives. Nairobi, Kenya, 09–13 November 2002.

    E-mail Citation »

    Presents the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ definition of secondary forests.

  • Heckenberger, Michael J., Afukaka Kuikuro, Urissapá Tabata Kuikuro, et al. 2003. Amazonia 1492: Pristine forest or cultural parkland? Science 301:1710–1714.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1086112E-mail Citation »

    Presents evidence of large-scale, prehistoric disturbance of landscapes in Brazil.

  • Malhi, Yadvinder, Stephen Adu-Bredu, Rebecca A. Asare, Simon L. Lewis, and Philippe Mayaux. 2013. African rainforests: Past, present and future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 368:20120312.

    DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0312E-mail Citation »

    Describes evidence of prehistoric human disturbance of rainforests in Africa.

  • Sasaki, Nophea, and Francis Putz. 2009. Critical need for new definitions of “forest” and “forest degradation” in global climate change agreements. Conservation Letters 2:226–232.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2009.00067.xE-mail Citation »

    Describes the importance of forest definitions for developing effective strategies to mitigate global environmental change.

  • Willis, K. J., L. Gillson, and T. M. Brncic. 2004. How “virgin” is virgin rainforest? Science 304:402–403.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1093991E-mail Citation »

    Reviews evidence of prehistoric human settlements in tropical rainforests.

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