Land-use change occurs nowhere more rapidly than in the tropics, where the imbalance between deforestation and forest regrowth has large consequences for the global carbon cycle. However, considerable uncertainty remains about the rate of biomass recovery in secondary forests, and how these rates are influenced by climate, landscape, and prior land use. Here we analyse aboveground biomass recovery during secondary succession in 45 forest sites and about 1,500 forest plots covering the major environmental gradients in the Neotropics. The studied secondary forests are highly productive and resilient. Aboveground biomass recovery after 20 years was on average 122 megagrams per hectare (Mg ha-1), corresponding to a net carbon uptake of 3.05 Mg C ha 1 yr-1, 11 times the uptake rate of old-growth forests. Aboveground biomass stocks took a median time of 66 years to recover to 90% of old-growth values. Aboveground biomass recovery after 20 years varied 11.3-fold (from 20 to 225 Mg ha-1) across sites, and this recovery increased with water availability (higher local rainfall and lower climatic water deficit). We present a biomass recovery map of Latin America, which illustrates geographical and climatic variation in carbon sequestration potential during forest regrowth. The map will support policies to minimize forest loss in areas where biomass resilience is naturally low (such as seasonally dry forest regions) and promote forest regeneration and restoration in humid tropical lowland areas with high biomass resilience.
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Acknowledgements This paper is a product of the 2ndFOR collaborative research network on secondary forests. We thank the owners of the secondary forest sites for access to their forests, all the people who have established and measured the plots, and the institutions and funding agencies that supported them. We thank J. Zimmerman for the use of plot data, and the following agencies for financial support: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-DFAT, CGIAR-FTA, CIFOR, Colciencias grant 1243-13-16640, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (SEP-CONACYT 2009-129740 for ReSerBos, CONACYT 33851-B), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq: 563304/2010-3, 562955/2010-0, 574008/2008-0 and PQ 307422/2012-7), FOMIX-Yucatan (YUC-2008-C06-108863), ForestGEO, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG CRA APQ-00001-11), Fundación Ecológica de Cuixmala, Heising-Simons Foundation, HSBC, ICETEX, Instituto Internacional de Educação do Brasil-IEB, Instituto Nacional de Serviços Ambientais da Amazônia -Servamb-INPA, Inter-American Institute for Global Change (Tropi-Dr Network CRN3-025) via a grant from the US National Science Foundation (grant GEO-1128040), Motta Family Foundation, NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program, National Science Foundation (NSF-CNH-RCN grant 1313788 for Tropical Reforestation Network: Building a Socioecological Understanding of Tropical Reforestation (PARTNERS), NSF DEB-0129104, NSF BCS-1349952, NSF Career Grant DEB-1053237, NSF DEB 1050957, 0639393, 1147429, 0639114, and 1147434), NUFFIC, USAID (BOLFOR), Science without Borders Program (CAPES/CNPq) grant number 88881.064976/2014-01, The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) grant 2011/06782-5 and 2014/14503-7, Silicon Valley Foundation, Stichting Het Kronendak, Tropenbos Foundation, University of Connecticut Research Foundation, Wageningen University (INREF Terra Preta programme and FOREFRONT programme). This is publication number 683 in the Technical Series of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project BDFFP-INPA-SI. This study was partly funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement number 283093; Role Of Biodiversity In climate change mitigatioN (ROBIN).