Restoration pathways for rain forest in southwest Sri Lanka: A review of concepts and models

Restoration pathways for rain forest in southwest Sri Lanka: A review of concepts and models


In the last 10 years government policy towards remaining rain forest in Sri Lanka has changed from one that promoted commercial exploitation to one of conservation, recognizing the growing importance of uplands as catchments for water production, biodiversity conservation and other downstream services. This review article discusses recent research on rain forest dynamics of southwest Sri Lanka with the objective of how this knowledge can be used for forest restoration.

Research goals & methods

Research has established six common principles for understanding the integrity of rain forest dynamics in southwest Sri Lanka: i) disturbances provide the simultaneous initiation and/or release of a new forest stand; ii) disturbances are generally non-lethal to the groundstory vegetation; iii) disturbances are variable in severity, type and extent across rain forest topography; iv) guild diversity is dependent upon “advance regeneration''; v) tree canopy stratification is based on both “static'' and “dynamic'' processes; and vi) canopy dominant late-successional tree species are site specialists restricted to particular topographic positions of the rain forest. These principles are applied to determine effects of two rain forest degradation processes that have been characterized as chronic and acute.

Conclusions & takeaways

Restoration pathways based on these principles may include:  i) the simple prevention of disturbance to promote release of rain forest succession; ii) site-specific enrichment planting protocols for canopy trees;  iii) sequential amelioration of arrested fern and grasslands by use of plantation analogs of old field pine to facilitate secondary succession of rain forest, and plantings of late-seral rain forest tree species; and  iv) establishment and release of successionally compatible mixed-species plantations.


Ashton MS, Gunatilleke CVS, Singhakumara BMP, Gunatilleke IAUN. Restoration pathways for rain forest in southwest Sri Lanka: a review of concepts and models. Forest Ecology and Management. 2001;154:409–430. doi:10.1016/s0378-1127(01)00512-6.


  • School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • Botany Department, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
  • Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka