Strategies for the Recovery of Degraded Ecosystems: Experiences from Latin America

Strategies for the Recovery of Degraded Ecosystems: Experiences from Latin America


This paper reviews the rehabilitation potential of native species forest plantations in lowland Costa Rica, the Atlantic Forest of Bahia, Brazil, and sub-tropical Argentina. Native species can improve forest regeneration where soils are degraded and where sources of propagules are limited. While most tropical plantations are dominated by exotic species, native trees may be more appropriate because they are better adapted to the local environment, are already familiar to local farmers, and their propagules are locally available.

Research Goals & Methods

The goal of the study was to increase understanding and information regardng the appropriate choice of tree species for plantation forestry or agroforestry. The study draws on findings from a research program that aimed to develop alternatives for the rehabilitation and use of abandoned lands, which took place from 1987 to 1998 in three humid forest regions of Latin America: the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica, the Atlantic rainforest of Bahia in NE Brazil, and the sub-tropical forest of Misiones, NE Argentina

Conclusions & Takeaways

In each of the 3 study sites, soil fertility and nitrogen availability were determined under native species, in areas without trees (abandoned pastures or grass areas), and in adjacent secondary forest. Litterfall and forest-floor litter accumulation were also compared, using new and existing data. In all 3 locations, soil quality (including nitrogen and carbon levels, organic matter, and cation levels) was higher under native species plantations than in non-plantation comparisons. Regeneration was generally higher under mixed plantations, and high leaf litter production was important in suppressing herbaceous vegetation that completes with tree seedlings. Windbreaks and remnant trees are also important sources of native trees in areas where propagules are less available. They also provide other environmental and economic services such as habitat and timber sources.



Montagnini, F. 2001, “Strategies for the recovery of degraded ecosystems: Experiences from Latin America”, Interciencia, 26(10):498-503.


  • Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT