Restoration of ecosystem services in tropical forests: a global meta-analysis.
To reverse the effects of deforestation, tropical areas have expanded restoration efforts in recent years. As ecological restoration positively affects the structure and function of degraded ecosystems, understanding to what extent restoration recovers ecosystem services (ES) is an important step in directing large-scale restoration actions. We evaluated the effect of restoration in increasing the provision of ES in tropical forests. We performed a global meta-analysis of ecological indicators of the ES provided in restored areas, degraded areas and reference ecosystems. We tested for the effects of different restoration strategies, different types of degradation and for the effects of restoration over time. Overall, restoration actions contributed to a significant increase in levels of ecological indicators of ES (carbon pool, soil attributes and biodiversity protection) compared to disturbed areas. Among the restoration strategies, the natural regeneration was the most effective. Biodiversity protection and carbon recovered better than soil attributes. All other restoration strategies recovered ES to a substantially lesser degree, and reforestation with exotics decreased the ES of areas degraded by agriculture. In areas degraded by pasture, restoration was more effective in recovering the biodiversity protection, whereas in areas degraded by agriculture, the restoration recovered mainly the carbon pool. Our results show that by choosing the correct strategy, restoration can recover much of the ES lost by the degradation of tropical forests. These results should be considered for large-scale conservation and management efforts for this biome.