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1.02.01 - Ecology and silviculture of plantation forests in the tropics


Mauro Schumacher, Brazil


Rachel Cook, United States

Ben du Toit, South Africa

Luis Fontes, Portugal

About Unit

The "Ecology and silviculture of plantation forests in the tropics" unit considers ecology and silviculture of planted forests in the tropics and sub-tropics. All fields of terrestrial ecology can be represented provided that the research has practical implications for the management of tropical plantations. The unit will cover a wide diversity of tropical plantations, from multipurpose native or exotic tree plantations of rural communities to high-production plantations of fast-growing trees of forest companies.

The unit aims to contribute knowledge to improve silvicultural practices in tropical plantations for sustainable production and ecological services. A special focus will be on (i) experimental and modelling approaches contributing to insights into the relationships between ecology and management practices, and (ii) consequences of climate change on the ecology and silviculture of sub/tropical tree plantations. 

The unit encourages exchange of information and experiences between ecologists, plantation managers and communities. In addition to supporting workshops on ecology and silviculture of tropical plantations, the unit will also promote international collaborations through networks of experiments and information exchange.

State of Knowledge

Planted forests have been expanding worldwide from 178 million ha in 1990 to 264 million ha in 2010, with a rate of expansion that has increased in the past decade in most tropical regions (FAO, 2010). The contribution of tropical forest plantations to the world’s wood, fibre, fuel, and non-woody forest product supply is expected to increase, as is their role to provide environmental and social services at a time when demand for these resources is increasing.

Comprehensive studies have been carried out in plantations of fast-growing species managed in short rotations for the production of biomass. Despite their importance, less knowledge exists about plantations of native species managed in long rotations, and studies should be encouraged. Recent work showed a potential to increase the production of biomass under stressful conditions by incorporating a greater diversity of tree species. Understanding how inter-specific interactions influence the development of individual trees and the ecological functions of tropical plantations remains a challenge. Improving our understanding of ecological processes in forest plantations will aid the design of silvicultural systems that have lower demand of fertilizers and pesticides and that are more sustainable in a changing world.