This study describes forest succession following slash-and-burn agriculture in central Amazonia, based on four chronosequences (22 sites) of 2- to 25-y-old secondary regrowth and mature forest. Biomass accumulated in the form of a saturation curve: 25 y of regrowth restored half of the mature-forest biomass, 75% would be restored after an estimated 175 y. Biomass accumulation was accompanied by a rapid decrease in woody plant density and an increase of the positive skew of plant size distribution. Liana biomass share declined from 5.0% in young to 1.9% in old regrowth, and 1.3% in mature forest, whereas the share of palms was low (0.5%) in young regrowth and high in old regrowth (1.8%) and mature forest (2.2%). 25-y-old regrowth was similar with mature forest in respect to woody plant density and growth-form composition, but both the plant size distribution and the number of stems per plant differed strongly from mature forest. A moderate increase in land use had only minor effects on biomass accumulation, but profoundly changed structural characteristics of regrowth, pointing to a high vulnerability to degradation. Thus, the sustainability of slash-and-burn in central Amazonia may be lower than the rapid initial biomass accumulation would make it seem.
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