Tropical secondary forest regeneration conserves high levels of avian phylogenetic diversity

David P. Edwards, Michael R. Massam, Torbjørn Haugaasen, James J. Gilroy

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41 Citations (Scopus)
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Secondary forests are promoted as having pivotal roles in reversing the tropical extinction crisis. While secondary forests recover carbon and species over time, a key question is whether phylogenetic diversity—the total evolutionary history across all species within a community—also recovers. Conserving phylogenetic diversity protects unique phenotypic and ecological traits, and benefits ecosystem functioning and stability. We examined the extent to which avian phylogenetic diversity recovers in secondary forests in the Colombian Chocó-Andes. sesPD, a measure of phylogenetic richness corrected for species richness, recovered to old-growth forest levels after ~ 30 years, while sesMPD, a measure of the phylogenetic distance between individuals in a community, recovered to old-growth levels even within young secondary forest. Mean evolutionary distinctiveness also recovered rapidly in secondary forest communities. Our results suggest that secondary forests can play a vital role in conserving distinct evolutionary lineages and high levels of evolutionary history. Focusing conservation and carbon-based payments for ecosystem services on secondary forest recovery and their subsequent protection thus represent a good use of scarce conservation resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-439
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date23 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Carbon enhancements
  • Cloud forest
  • Forest restoration
  • Natural regeneration
  • REDD +
  • Secondary forest
  • Tropical Andes

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