Amazon Rain Forest Succession: Stochasticity or Land-Use Legacy?

Rita De Cássia Guimarães Mesquita, Paulo Eduardo Dos Santos Massoca, Catarina Conte Jakovac, Tony Vizcarra Bentos, G. Bruce Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Land-use practices can dramatically shift the trajectories of rain forest recovery. In a 25-year study, Amazon rain forest regenerated following deforestation as long as seed availability and seedling recruitment were not interrupted. In contrast, rain forest converted to cattle pastures via cutting and burning prior to abandonment diverted succession, leading to highly simplified stands dominated by a single genus. Annual fires eliminated seedlings, saplings, coppice, and seeds in the soil, except for several Vismia species. Once established, Vismia regenerated by continual resprouting and resisted the establishment of other rain forest species, especially the normal suite of pioneers. Through time, succession both in abandoned clearcuts and pastures increased in stem density and biomass; however, species accumulation and ecosystem services were limited in pastures when compared with those in abandoned clearcuts. Therefore, prescribed burning to maintain pastureland leaves a legacy that is not readily extinguished, whereas abandoning clearcuts engenders an accelerated rain forest regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-861
Number of pages13
Issue number9
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • alternative pathways
  • forest regeneration
  • land-use history
  • secondary succession
  • stochastic processes


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