Potential of second-growth Neotropical forests for forestry: the example of Puerto Rico
The development of appropriate strategies towards the sustainable management of tropical second-growth forests is essential for human well-being and climate change mitigation. The well-documented process of forest recovery in Puerto Rico offers a unique opportunity to evaluate the potential of second-growth tropical forests for forestry. Here, we combined 10 years of forest inventory data with ethnobotanical information to determine trends in forest cover, stand structure, and timber volume, as well as the suitability of useful tree species for timber and non-timber forest products. We observed a period of stability in the process of forest recovery. Even though the forests are still too young for extensive forestry, they are rich in useful species and contain high densities of trees suited for timber and several non-timber forest products. These results suggest that Puerto Rico’s forests have substantial capability for forestry and research on silvicultural practices. Today, numerous government programs encourage reforestation in private forests. However, lack of markets for local forest products and services is a major limitation for sustainable forest management. Therefore, it is worthwhile to support local enterprises of artisans and sawyers and create innovative incentives for forestry, rather than mainly focus on subsidizing landowners to plant trees.