Resource Details

Neotropical secondary forest succession: changes in structural and functional characteristics


Guariguata, M. R., & Ostertag, R. (2001) "Neotropical secondary forest succession: Changes in structural and functional characteristics," Forest Ecology and Management, 148(1-3), 185–206.

Contact Info

Corresponding author:


  • Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), Unidad de Manejo de Bosques Naturales, 7170 Turrialba, Costa Rica
  • Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3110, USA
  • International Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Rio Piedras, PR 00928, USA



  • In this paper, the authors reiview the main biotic and abiotic factors that influence patterns of secondary forest succession in the Neotropics, after complete forest clearance due to human activities.
  • The authors look at patterns of species replacement and various processes that occur during succession, and suggest that the sequence of processes may be predictable even if species composition is not.
  • The phases of the recovery process are described: from factors affecting early colonization, changes in light and soil properties, soil/vegetation feedbacks at initial and later successional stages, biomass accumulation, forest productivity, rates of species accumulation, and species composition.
  • The conclusion of these analyses is that the regenerative power of Neotropical forest vegetation is high, if propagule sources are close by and land use intensity before abandonment has not been severe, but recovery is heavily dependent on the interactions between site-specic factors and land use, making it difficult to predict successional trajectories in anthropogenic settings.


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