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Secondary forests may become increasingly important as temporary reservoirs of genetic diversity, stocks of carbon and nutrients, and moderators of hydrologic cycles in the Amazon Basin as agricultural lands are abandoned and often later cleared again for agriculture. We studied a municipality in northeastern Par, Brazil, that has been settled for over a century and where numerous cycles of slash and bum agriculture have occurred. The forests were grouped into young (3-6 years), intermediate (10-20 years), advanced (40-70 years), and mature successional stages using 1999 Landsat 7 ETM imagery. Supervised classification of the imagery showed that these forest classes occupied 22%, 13%, 9%, and 6% of the area, respectively. Although this area underwent widespread deforestation many decades ago, forest of some type covers about 50% of the area. Row crops, tree crops, and pastures cover 8%, 20%, and 22%, respectively. The best separation among land covers appeared in a plot of NDVI versus band 5 reflectance. The same groupings of successional forests were derived independently from indices of similarity among tree species composition. Measured distributions of tree height and diameter also covaried with these successional classes, with the young forests having nearly uniform distributions, whereas multiple height and diameter classes were present in the advanced successional forests. Biomass accumulated more slowly in this secondary forest chronosequence than has been reported for other areas, which explains why the 70-year-old forests here were still distinguishable from mature forests using spectral properties. Rates of forest regrowth may vary across regions due to differences in edaphic, climatic, and historical land-use factors, thus rendering most relationships among spectral properties and forest age site-specific. Successional status, as characterized by species composition, biomass, and distributions of heights and diameters, may be superior to stand age as a means of stratifying these forests for characterization of spectral properties. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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