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COMPARING PRIMARY AND SECONDARY FORESTS

ECOLOGICAL SUCCESSION
Forests are usually formed as the result of a succession of vegetation changes, which occur over
a very long time and which begin with pioneer species finding ways to gain a foothold and live
on rocks which have no soil, after a volcanic eruption or some such event, which leaves bare
rock. The pioneer species, maybe lichens, begin a process of soil accumulation which allows
other species to replace them in a linear sequence of stages known as seres. If this succession is
allowed to continue, ultimately a climax community will be reached. These climax communities
are the world's biomes, such as tropical rainforest or tundra, and differ depending upon
temperature and precipitation.

Often the primary succession is interrupted by a natural event, such as fire or flooding or, more
probably, removal of the vegetation for some human activity such as agriculture or mining. In
these cases, soil remains, so when the fire has passed or the humans have given up their farming
activities, a new succession begins, known as a secondary succession, which usually results in
different climax communities.

So, if you have understood what an ecological succession is all about ..........................................

What do you understand, then, by the phrases:


PRIMARY FOREST?

SECONDARY FOREST

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PRIMARY AND SECONDARY FORESTS


Assuming we are analysing forests in the same general areas of altitude, precipitation and
temperature, what then would you expect to be the differences between primary and Secondary
forest? Make a series of simple hypotheses. (Don't forget that you may well reject your
hypotheses and this is not important at all!)

Some hypotheses about the differences between primary and secondary forests.
BIODIVERSITY OF TREES (# of species and abundance)

HEIGHT OF TREES

DIAMETER OF TREES (taken at shoulder height)


Contd]
SOILS BENEATH THE TREES

ORGANIC MATTER IN SOILS

EPIPHYTIC PLANTS (growing on trees)

STRATIFICATION - LAYERS OF VEGETATION, FROM FOREST FLOOR TO


CANOPY

Now, let's get to work to see whether our hypotheses can be supported or, more likely, rejected.

We shall use the POINT-CENTRE-QUARTER METHOD of analysing Primary and Secondary


forests. This is a well established method and can be adapted in a variety of ways. It allows
forests to be sampled in a manner similar to using quadrats but on a grand scale. Obviously it is
way beyond our possibilities to sample every square metre of forest, so we must take samples
and do some math!

Look at the diagram


The portion of forest selected randomly, maybe by using GPS. We cannot do that!
The large sector is marked out with tape and the centre point defined. This BIG quadrat is
given a letter, for instance A.
This enables 4 sub-sectors - mini quadrats - to be defined. Each sub-sector is defined as A-
NW, A-NE, A-SE and A-SW, according to its position.
Every tree with DBH of 5 cm or more, in each mini quadrat is given a number and data is
recorded.
Once a tree has been recorded, it is marked with some simple tape and a label with the tree
number is attached.
This procedure is repeated in as many sectors as possible, enough to collect meaningful
data.

DBH = Diameter at Body Height, which is defined as 4ft 6in (137 cms).

When all the data is collected, the tapes are removed and a new sector is worked on.

Data:
1. Tree identification number (A-NW-1, A-NW-2, etc)
2. At DBH, the circumference of the tree is measured with a simple tape measure
3. Height estimation of the tree
4. Species - this may not be easy, so drawings or leaf collections may be necessary. Each
species, if the name is not known, can be given a letter, A, B, C, etc. Repeats of the
same species can be written as , for example, A1, A2, etc.
5. Nr. of epiphytes
6. For the whole mini-quadrat:
i. Stratification of the vegetation
ii. Soil description, incl estimation or description of the organic content
RESULTS TABLE
NAMES OF INVESTIGATORS:....................................................................................................

..........................................................................................................................................................

SECTOR:..........................................................................................................................................

SUB-SECTOR:................................................................................................................................

Description of vegetation stratification:

Description of soil:

DBH
Tree Nr of
Species Circumference Height (m)
number epiphytes
(cm)