Patterns and processes of old field reforestation in Australian rainforest landscapes
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Rainforests were widely cleared in Australia during the 19th and 20th centuries to establish agriculture in areas thought to have high soil fertility and be relatively drought free. Some of these areas were abandoned soon after clearing because of inherent low soil productivity or due to inappropriate farming methods. More recent changes to agricultural trade policies have lead to the break-up of some farming lands and a decline in several of the key industries in these rainforest landscapes. Over time it is likely that more of these farming areas will change land uses or be abandoned. In the last few decades there has also been an increased public awareness that rainforests have been over-cleared. Several organisations and government agencies have begun to reforest these landscapes, using a variety of methods, and have had varying levels of success. Understanding what controls flora and fauna colonisation in the old fields of Australian rainforest landscapes is essential for guiding effective and efficient restoration programs. However, research conducted into these processes and patterns is patchy at best, and there has been little synthesis. The focus of this chapter is thus to summarise vegetation development on abandoned agricultural lands in rainforest regions, by examining both autogenic ("self-directed") successional processes and those that are actively managed (such as tree-planting or weed removal). We concentrate on Australia's humid tropics (the "Wet Tropics") and sub-tropics because: this is where most of the rainforest was historically and still exists today; the rainforests in the two regions show many floristic and faunal similarities; they have some climatic and edaphic similarities (eg. existence on basalt plateaux); the land use history in the two regions has been similar; and the current issues in both regions are similar. Furthermore, most relevant research into rainforest development on old fields has been conducted in these regions.
Old Fields: Dynamics and Restoration of Abandoned Farmland