Ecosystem Services of Secondary Forests in the Mata Atlântica of Brazil

EPA Grant Number: FP917490
Title: Ecosystem Services of Secondary Forests in the Mata Atlântica of Brazil
Investigators: Nagy, Rachel Chelsea
Institution: Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


The potential for C storage in secondary forests is limited by productivity of regrowing vegetation and in turn, productivity often is limited by one or more nutrients. Additionally, high species richness may enhance complementary resource use among species (niche complementarity) and thus increase productivity and biomass. This research will focus on how land use history affects the service of C storage and C storage potential as it is influenced by nutrient limitation and species richness effects on productivity.


This research will combine ecological and biogeochemical analyses of soils and vegetation to compare primary and secondary forests with different land use histories. The Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlântica, of Brazil is a model for the future of tropical secondary forests and the ecosystems they provide. The project will be conducted in the state of Sao Paulo in a network of forest preserves created in the 1970s that contains secondary forests regenerated from abandoned pastures and eucalyptus plantations.

Expected Results:

Land use history can be an important driver of many ecosystem services. Carbon storage and species richness of primary forests likely will exceed that of secondary forests. Productivity of secondary forests may be limited by nitrogen and/or phosphorus because of nutrient removal in management practices such as fires and harvests. Productivity is expected to increase with increasing diversity due to complementary resource use among species.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

The interactions among these ecosystem services will provide insight into the overall ability of secondary forests to act as a sink for CO2. This work will provide information as to how different land covers might be compensated under reduced emissions from a deforestation and degradation (REDD) framework, which in turn may be a direct benefit to local communities. Incorporating small-scale landowners in this framework, by providing incentives to restore forests and thus enhance the ecosystem services they provide, has the potential to improve the livelihoods of poorer communities in the region.

Supplemental Keywords:

ecosystem services, secondary forests, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final