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Non-sustainable agricultural activities have impacted the Mountain Cloud Forest (MCF), favoring the expansion of invasive species in degraded landscapes. In the Andes, the bracken ferns, Pteridium spp., suppress the natural recovery of the MCF and maintain bracken-invaded areas in a permanently degraded state. The limiting factors to the natural regeneration of native plant species include long-distance dispersal syndromes and an ability to compete with invasive species. Our research investigates the vegetation recovery on degraded bracken fern areas using a combination of fieldwork and remote sensing imagery. Using a high-resolution Planet Dove satellite image, we cataloged the boundaries of bracken fern patches. Next, we collected field data on the abundance of woody seedlings and collected drone imagery to estimate the coverage of bracken ferns and native perennial vegetation in the invaded areas. Our analysis reveals that seedlings of woody plants respond differently to habitat characteristics, and bracken fern shows a wide range of coverage on degraded patches. Some taxonomic families of woody plants are more likely to be found in forested than degraded areas with high bracken fern coverage. We discuss how our results in the context of landscape geospatial characteristics can inform where dispersal limitation may occur and where active restoration may be required to aid vegetation recovery.

Keywords:

Mountain cloud forest, seedlings, drone, bracken fern, natural regeneration, patches

Sandra Velazco Salvatierra, Owen McBride, Wilfredo Mendoza Caballero, Donna Delparte, T. Trevor Caughlin

Presentation within symposium:

S-45 Before and-after tropical forest restoration across different landscapes

Forest recovery in a montane landscape, future insights to restore degraded lands

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