Secondary forests are those that grow back in places that have been deforested. They are forests composed of species often known as ‘pioneer’ or ‘secondary’ that are adapted to colonizing disturbed sites and so very different from those that composed the original forest before they were cut down. I have been interested in secondary forests for many years, beginning with my PhD in forest fragments in the Amazon and later working in the secondary forests that dominate Belize and then again in the shade-coffee farms of El Salvador. I find these forests fascinating for several reasons: firstly they are growing rapidly in importance due to extensive deforestation and yet remain poorly studied, secondly they contain species that are often important sources of fuel and materials for local people, and thirdly they contain species that are often able to establish themselves on the incredibly poor soils found in much of the Tropics without recourse to the rich leaf-litter or root-mat layers that enable the original forest to survive, and so are very interesting in their own right.
I am working with Brazilian ecologist Dary Rigueira from the Universidad Federal da Bahia, Salvador, together with Eve Lucas and William Milliken from RBG Kew to identify native secondary forest species that could be used in forest restoration in the area.