Vegetation structure and biodiversity recovery in 19-year-old active restoration plantations in a Neotropical cloud forest

  • Rosa-Amelia Pedraza Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Veracruz.
  • Guadalupe Williams-Linera Instituto de Ecología, (INECOL), Xalapa, Veracruz.
  • Teresa Nicolás-Silva Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Veracruz.


Aim of the study: To evaluate how middle-aged active restoration plantations of native tree species contribute to the recovery of the tropical cloud forest in terms of vegetation structure, tree richness, species composition, and to shade-tolerance and seed dispersal mode functional groups.

Area of the study: We studied two 19-year-old active restoration sites and their reference mature forests in the tropical montane cloud forest belt, Veracruz, Mexico.

Materials and methods: The basal area, density and height as well as the tree species composition and number of species and individuals classified by shade tolerance (pioneer and non-pioneer trees), and seed dispersal mode (anemochorous, barochorous-synzoochorous and endozoochorous) were compared between active restoration plantations and reference forests.

Main results: Planted trees and the woody vegetation growing under them represented a high proportion of reference forests’ basal area. Tree richness and Shannon’s equitability index were similar in both reference forests and one active restoration plantation and slightly different in the other. Tree species composition differed among sites; however, each 19-year-old plantation already had several non-pioneer species and a similar species proportion of the seed dispersal syndromes present in their reference forests.

Research highlights: Active restoration accelerated the recovery of cloud forest in degraded pasture and bracken fern lands. Planted trees promoted the rapid development of vegetation structure and natural tree regeneration. Although species composition is still different, these middle-aged restoration plantations already have forest species and a proportion of functional groups of species similar to those of their own reference montane cloud forests.

Keywords: active restoration; forest recovery; passive restoration; seed dispersal mode; succession; tree species; tropical montane cloud forest.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Rosa-Amelia Pedraza, Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Veracruz.
Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales
Guadalupe Williams-Linera, Instituto de Ecología, (INECOL), Xalapa, Veracruz.

Functional Ecology

Senior Researcher

Teresa Nicolás-Silva, Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Veracruz.
Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales


Aubin I, Messier C, Bouchard A, 2008. Can plantations develop understory biological and physical attributes of naturally regenerated forests? Biol Conserv 141:2461-2476.

Bechara FC, Dickens SJ, Farrer EC, Larios L, Spotswood EN, Mariotte P, Suding KN, 2016. Neotropical rainforest restoration: comparing passive, plantation and nucleation approaches. Biodivers Conserv 25:2021-2034.

Garcia LC, Hobbs RJ, Ribeiro DB, Tamashiro JY, Santos FAM, Rodrigues RR, 2016. Restoration over time: is it possible to restore trees and non-trees in high-diversity forests? App Veg Sci 19:655-666.

Gatica-Saavedra P, Echeverría C, Nelson CR, 2017. Ecological indicators for assessing ecological success of forest restoration: a world review. Restor Ecol 25:850-857.

Gilman AC, Letcher SG, Fincher RM, Perez AI, Madel TW, Finkelstein AL, Corrales-Araya F, 2016. Recovery of floristic diversity and basal area in natural forest regeneration and planted plots in a Costa Rican wet forest. Biotropica 48:798-808.

Holl KD, Aide TM, 2010. When and where to actively restore ecosystems? Forest Ecol Manag 261:1558-1563.

Holl KD, Loik ME, Lin EHV, Samuels IA, 2000. Tropical montane forest restoration in Costa Rica: overcoming barriers to dispersal and establishment. Restor Ecol 8:339-349.

López-Gómez AM, Williams-Linera G, Manson RH, 2008. Tree species diversity and vegetation structure in shade coffee farms in Veracruz, Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosyst Environ 124:160-172.

McCune B, Grace JB, 2002. Analysis of Ecological Communities. MjM Software, Gleneden Beach, Oregon, USA. 300 pp.

Muñiz-Castro MA, Williams-Linera G, Rey Benayas JM, 2006. Distance effect from cloud forest fragments on plant community structure in abandoned pastures in Veracruz, Mexico. J Trop Ecol 22:431-440.

Muñiz-Castro MA, Williams-Linera G, Martínez-Ramos M, 2012. Dispersal mode, shade tolerance, and phytogeographical affinity of tree species during secondary succession in tropical montane cloud forest. Plant Ecol 213:339-353.

Pedraza PR, Williams-Linera G, 2003. Evaluation of native tree species for the rehabilitation of deforested areas in a Mexican cloud forest. New For 26:83-99.

Reid JL, Holl KD, Zahawi RA, 2015. Seed dispersal limitations shift over time in tropical forest restoration. Ecol Appl 25:1072-1082.

Ruiz-Jaen MC, Aide TM, 2005a. Restoration success: how is it being measured? Restor Ecol 13:569-577.

Ruiz-Jaen MC, Aide TM, 2005b. Vegetation structure, species diversity, and ecosystem processes as measures of restoration success. Forest Ecol Manag 218:159-173.

Scatena FN, Bruijnzeel LA, Bubb P, Das S, 2010. Setting the stage. In: Tropical montane cloud forests: science for conservation and management; Bruijnzeel LA, Scatena FN, Hamilton LS (eds). pp: 3-13. Cambridge University Press, USA.

Suganuma MS, de Assis GB, Durigan G, 2014. Changes in plant species composition and functional traits along the successional trajectory of a restored patch of Atlantic Forest. Community Ecol 15:27-36.

Suganuma MS, Durigan G, 2015. Indicators of restoration success in riparian tropical forests using multiple reference ecosystems. Restor Ecol 23:238-251.

Tobón W, Urquiza-Haas T, Koleff P, Schröter M, Ortega-Álvarez R, Campo J, Lindig-Cisneros R, Sarukhán J, Bonn A, 2017. Restoration planning to guide Aichi targets in a megadiverse country. Conserv Ecol 31:1086-1097.

Trujillo-Miranda AL, Toledo-Aceves T, López-Barrera F, Gerez-Fernández P, 2018. Active versus passive restoration: Recovery of cloud forest structure, diversity and soil condition in abandoned pastures. Ecol Eng 117:50-61.

van der Pijl L, 1972. Principles of Dispersal in Higher Plants. Springer, Berlin, Germany.

Williams-Linera G, Toledo-Garibaldi M, Gallardo CH, 2013. How heterogeneous are the cloud forest communities in the mountains of central Veracruz, Mexico? Plant Ecol 214:685-701.

Williams-Linera G, Alvarez-Aquino C, Muñiz-Castro MA, Pedraza RA, 2016. Evaluación del éxito de la restauración del bosque mesófilo de montaña en la región de Xalapa, Veracruz. In: Experiencias mexicanas en la restauración de los ecosistemas; Ceccon E, Martínez-Garza C (eds). pp. 81-101. UNAM-CRIM-UAEM-CONABIO, Mexico.

Wilson SJ, Rhemtulla JM, 2016. Acceleration and novelty: community restoration speeds recovery and transforms species composition in Andean cloud forest. Ecol Appl 26:203-218.

Wortley L, Hero JM, Howes M, 2013. Evaluating ecological restoration success: a review of the literature. Restor Ecol 21:537-543.

How to Cite
PedrazaR.-A., Williams-LineraG., & Nicolás-SilvaT. (2021). Vegetation structure and biodiversity recovery in 19-year-old active restoration plantations in a Neotropical cloud forest. Forest Systems, 30(1), e004.
Research Articles