Assessing rainforest restoration: the value of buffer strips for recovery of rainforest remnants in Australia’s Wet Tropics

Throughout the tropics, forest remnants are under increasing pressure from habitat fragmentation and edge effects. To improve the conservation value of forest remnants, restoration plantings are used to accelerate and redirect ecological succession. Unfortunately, many restoration projects undergo little to no evaluation in achieving project goals. Here we evaluate the success of one common restoration technique, buffer strip planting, at the Malanda Scrub in North Queensland, Australia. Buffer strips are used to reduce the impacts associated with edge effects and improve overall forest quality. To evaluate the success of the Malanda project, we compared the microclimate, understorey community structure and functional trait-state diversity (functional diversity) for a range of plant functional traits along the original forest edge, a reference forest edge, and the interior forest of the Malanda reserve. We found the buffer strip restored the original forest edge to interior forest conditions for the majority of measured features. Edge effects were not found more than 5 m from any measured edge, and edge effects penetrated to even shorter distances along the buffer strip edge. The buffer strip appeared to have a similar microclimate (here represented by soil temperature) and physical structure; however, it did not (after 14 years) closely resemble the interior forest floristically nor did it have the same functional diversity for measured traits. Results suggest that the buffer strip was successful in reducing edge effects but not in restoring the forest to original conditions within 14 years.

Read the full paper: Sonter, Metcalfe & Mayfield (2011) “Assessing rainforest restoration: the value of buffer strips for recovery of rainforest remnants in Australia’s Wet Tropics”, Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 16, pp. 274-288.