Ecosystem Service Provision by Secondary Forests in Shifting Cultivation Areas Remains Poorly Understood

Ole Mertz*, Thilde Bech Bruun, Martin Rudbeck Jepsen, Casey M. Ryan, Julie G. Zaehringer, Jeannette S. Hinrup, Andreas Heinimann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is often asserted that secondary forests (SF) provide inferior forest-based ecosystem services (ES), but there is limited research to generalize this claim. Here, we review comparisons between ES provision in SFs and other land uses in shifting cultivation landscapes. We searched the peer-reviewed literature and selected only studies that compare ES from SF with ES from other land uses. In total, 212 ES and 347 comparisons of different land use systems were recorded. Comparisons were mainly made for carbon storage, biodiversity, and soil variables. Very few provisioning ES were compared in the literature and no cultural services were recorded. SF were in most cases inferior to old-growth forest in terms of carbon storage and biodiversity, whereas soil quality comparisons varied. ES provision in SF was superior to agricultural systems, whereas comparisons with plantation crops varied. We conclude that the narrow focus on specific ES categories strongly limits understanding of SF in shifting cultivation areas and that it is more relevant to compare SFs with other agricultural systems rather than with old-growth forests.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2021


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