Resource Details

A comparative study of tree establishment in abandoned pasture and mature forest of eastern Amazonia

Literature: Journal Articles

Nepstad, D.C., Uhl, C., Pereira, C.A., da Silva, J.M.C. 1996, “A comparative study of tree establishment in abandoned pasture and mature forest of eastern Amazonia”, Oikos, vol. 76, no. 1, pp. 25-39.


  • Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, MA
  • Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • Convenio EMBRAPA/Woods Hole Research Center, Belém, Pará, Brazil
  • Museo Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Departamento de Zoologia, Belém, Pará, Brazil



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Species Info

  • Bagassa guianensis
  • Bertholletia excelsa
  • Cecropia obtusa
  • Cordia multispicata
  • Davilla sp.
  • Didymopanax morototoni
  • Endopleura uchi
  • Eugenia sp.
  • Hymenaea courbaril
  • Inga spp.
  • Jacaranda copaia
  • Laetia procera
  • Manilkara huberi
  • Maximiliana maripa
  • Myrcia deflexa
  • Nectandra sp.
  • Pouroma guianensis
  • Radlkoferella macrocarpa
  • Rollinia exsucca
  • Sclerolobium paraensis
  • Schizolobium amazonica
  • Solanum crinitum
  • Stryphnodendron pulcherrimum
  • Tabebuia serratifolia
  • Vismia guianensis
  • Zanthoxylum rhoifolia


  • This study compares seedling establishment, seed availability, seed predation, seedling herbivory, and abiotic barriers to tree establishment in a recently abandoned pasture that was used for 15 years, and in treefall gaps and understory in mature forest in Pará State, Brazil.
  • Tree establishment is especially limited in pastures that have been overgrazed, bulldozed, weeded and burned over a long time period, which results in dominance by grasses and shrubs.  The study pasture was grass and shrub dominated but had not been bulldozed or fertilized.
  • The authors created 3 study forest gaps by felling all trees over 2 meters in height.  They monitored tree seedling and sprout populations for 2 years in plots in each of the 3 study systems.
  • Soil seed supply in sites was determined through soil cores.  Seed deposition in the abandoned pasture was measured by placing traps under perching trees and through analysis of bird and bat feces.
  • The authors measured seed predation by observing removal of seeds placed in the sites.  They monitored seedling herbivory by recording damage to seedlings transplanted into the study systems.
  • The effect of abiotic factors (light, moisture, vapor pressure, air temperature) on tree establishment was measured by monitoring the surviroship and growth of seedling transplants in abandoned pasture and treefall gaps.
  • Seedling establishment was greatest in the treefall gaps and lowest in abandoned pasture.  Emergence was low and mortality high in the abandoned pasture.
  • Tree seed availability in pasture was low, and tree and liana seeds were present in greater densities under perching trees (especially S. crinitum).  Seed predation and herbivory were also highest in the abandoned pasture.  Prolonged use had reduced sprouting roots and the tree seedbank, and the greater presence of generalist ant groups worsened predations and herbivory in abandoned pasture.
  • Transplanted seedlings exhibited lower survivorship and height growth in abandoned pasture than in mature forest due to higher air temperature, greater soil moisture stress, and a greater air pressure vapor deficit.  Competition with grass roots and heavily compacted soil may also have contributed to high mortality and poor growth.
  • Overall, tree establishment was over 20 times lower in the abandoned pasture due to lack of tree seeds in the soil, a lack of bird and bat-dispersed seeds, and greater predation and herbivory than in mature forest.  Both abiotic and biotic factors influence succession, with these factors increasing in importance as severity of disturbance increases.

Geographical Region

  • Amazon Basin
  • Country

  • Brazil
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