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The effects of tropical secondary forest regeneration on avian phylogenetic diversity

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Edwards, DP 
Sayer, CA 
Martin, PA 
Thomas, GH 


The conversion of tropical forests to farmland is a key driver of the current extinction crisis. With the present rate of deforestation unlikely to subside, secondary forests that regenerate on abandoned agricultural land may provide an option for safeguarding biodiversity. While species richness (SR) may recover as secondary forests get older, the extent to which phylogenetic diversity (PD)—the total amount of evolutionary history present in a community—is conserved is less clear. Maximizing PD has been argued to be important to conserve both evolutionary heritage and ecosystem function. Here, we investigate the effects of secondary forest regeneration on PD in birds. The regeneration of secondary forests could lead to a community of closely related species, despite maintaining comparable SR to primary forests, and thus have diminished biodiversity value with reduced evolutionary heritage. We use a meta‐dataset of paired primary and secondary forest sites to show that, over time, forest specialist species returned across all sites as secondary forest age increased. Forest specialists colonize secondary tropical forests in both the Old World and the New World, but recovery of PD and community composition with time is only evident in the Old World. Synthesis and applications. While preserving primary tropical forests remains a core conservation goal, our results emphasize the important role of secondary forest in maintaining tropical forest biodiversity. Biodiversity recovery differs between Old and New World secondary forests and with proximity to primary forest, highlighting the need to consider local or regional differences in landscape composition and species characteristics, especially resilience to forest degradation and dispersal capability. While farmland abandonment is increasing across marginal areas in the tropics, there remains a critical need to provide long‐term management and protection from reconversion to maximize conservation benefits of secondary forests. Our study suggests such investments should be focused on land in close proximity to primary forests.



avian biodiversity, community composition, land-use change, secondary forest regrowth, tropical forest

Journal Title

Journal of Applied Ecology

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MAVA Fondation pour la Nature (14077)