Applying succession models to the conservation of tropical montane forest
Forest succession models have been widely used to simulate long-term vegetation dynamics and to provide insights into successional processes. However, they have rarely been used to address questions relating specifically to forest conservation. In this chapter we briefly discuss the history and application of models of forest succession. We then demonstrate how a forest succession model can be developed from quite simple principles and equations, and applied to modelling of complex forest dynamics. The application of an individual tree-based gap model is illustrated with reference to the specific case of montane forests in Chiapas, Mexico. Results from this modelling exercise suggested that the recovery rate of tropical montane forest following disturbance is likely to be very low, even when a source of colonists is assumed to exist nearby. Given their relatively low rates of colonization and growth, results suggest that it may take several hundred years to re-establish a canopy dominated by shade-tolerant tree species. The model also provides insights into the factors influencing the relative dominance of pine and oak in montane forests of Chiapas, an issue of conservation concern. Model simulations indicated that the relative abundance of pine and oak within forest stands can be understood as a function of the anthropogenic disturbance regime, enabling theories of recent pine colonization to be refined. Results highlight the sensitivity of tropical montane forest to anthropogenic disturbance, and highlight the urgent need to conserve those remaining forest fragments that are relatively undisturbed. © CAB International 2007.