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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Riparian forest management and regeneration : effects on forest structure and stream ecological processes in streams of eastern Amazon, Brazil Rossetti de Paula, Felipe


In tropical areas, deforestation and forest degradation are major threats to forests and the surrounding ecosystems, such as riparian forests and streams. These threats to riparian forests and streams in agricultural areas can be reduced by the implementation of riparian buffers. However, disturbances from cleared areas may still impact the forests due to the high edge-to-area ratio of buffers. Selective logging inside the buffers also has the potential to degrade riparian forests and streams. Forest regeneration has the potential to restore ecosystems in degraded lands, but disturbances from ongoing agriculture are expected to arrest or delay the regeneration process in the buffers. I evaluated the efficacy of two riparian buffer management strategies: (1) land abandonment for natural regeneration and (2) the maintenance of mature forest. I also sampled additional sites of different ages to evaluate where buffer treatments fit after riparian forest alterations. I hypothesized that the riparian buffers resulting from land abandonment would have less forest canopy, simpler stand structure, less large wood, higher primary production, and higher decomposition rates than a regenerated riparian forest that was surrounded by mature forest. I expected the same outcomes when comparing the riparian buffers of mature forest versus mature riparian reference sites. I found that forest structure did not differ significantly between riparian buffer management treatments, however, my ordination analysis revealed signs of forest degradation after selective logging in the riparian buffers of mature forest. I found no significant effect of riparian buffer management in any stream variable studied. Large wood was related to channel width and stem density. Stream respiration increased and primary production decreased as the regeneration process advances. Decomposition differed among species, apparently by differences on leaf structural compounds. My results show that both buffer management strategies can be effective for protection of riparian and stream ecosystem in agricultural landscapes. Land abandonment is a viable and inexpensive restoration action where ongoing disturbances are mild and the propagules for regeneration are available. While the implementation of riparian buffers of mature forests is an effective strategy, selective logging should be excluded from these areas as disturbances may intensify in the future.

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