Litterfall dynamics and nutrient inputs under different tropical forest restoration strategies in southern Costa Rica

Danielle Celentano Augusto

Tropical forests are among the most important biomes on earth. They house high levels of biodiversity, maintain critical ecosystem services, and exchange large quantities of carbon and water with the atmosphere. However, deforestation is still widespread in most tropical countries, particularly in Latin America. Deforestation provokes changes in global nutrient cycles with high environmental and social costs. Protecting remaining forested areas is the main goal for conservation. However, it has proven insufficient due to the increasing isolation of existing protected areas, and the high rates of forest loss and fragmentation. Conservation efforts must be associated with connectivity establishment through biological corridors, conservation practices in agricultural lands, and ecological restoration strategies. In this context, secondary forests play a key role in mitigating human impacts; they reestablish habitats, conserve biodiversity, supply goods, and restore ecosystem services. In this project we evaluated litterfall and nutrient dynamics under four restoration treatments: plantation (entire area planted), tree islands (planting in six patches of three sizes), control (natural regeneration), and young secondary forest (7 – 9 yr).