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Comparing the structure and composition of human-disturbed secondary forests and a primary forest, southern Taiwan
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Evaluating the naturalness of human disturbed forests enables forest managers to develop efficient plans. The tree communities of two human-disturbed forests at Meinong, Kaohsiung, Taiwan were compared with a relatively undisturbed tropical forest in order to understand their natural regeneration status. The first human disturbed forest was Shuanghsi Tropical Botanical Garden (STBG), which was used as an arboretum since 1935. The second human disturbed forest was Yellow Butterfly Valley (YBV), which was abandoned timber tree and fruit tree plantations. The relatively undisturbed tropical forest was Nanjenshan Plot I (NPI), which was a long-term ecological study plot within the Nanjenshan Reserve, and it was part of the Kenting National Park, Taiwan. Sample plots were set up at varying distances away from trails, roads or rivers, as indicators of accessibility by human. Current human disturbance data included visitor numbers, the number of human waste, and the plot distance away from trails, roads or rivers. The past human disturbance data was represented by the site history. Environmental data included soil compactness, soil moisture, slope, aspect and canopy openness. Tree census (with diameter at breast height more or equal to 1 cm) recorded a total of 1316 individuals from 88 species belonging to 69 genera and 33 families. The forest structure at STBG and YBV were similar to NPI, indicating good regeneration status. However, the regenerated native species accounted for a higher percentage at YBV than at STBG. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that the two secondary forests were not converging in floristic composition. The correlated factors to the floristic composition by PCA were canopy openness, site history, distance and soil moisture. The result suggests the potential of the two secondary forests to recover naturally from past human disturbances. The factors identified in this study are discussed for possible future restoration and conservation works.
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