Provision of environmental services

In particular in regions with little remaining forest cover and strongly degraded soils, plantations may provide important environmental services and contribute to ecosystem stability. In most cases, however, even highly degraded secondary forests may provide these services effectively, especially if compared to monoculture plantations with exotic species (Scherr et al, 2004). In addition, secondary succession runs naturally and thus requires little or no external input, which is an important advantage from the smallholders' point of view (Hoch et al, 2009).

The more degraded the soils are, and the slower the process of natural recovery, the more positive the effect of plantations on ecosystem stability. Nevertheless, from a financial point of view, it is generally not attractive to grow trees on degraded soils as growth rates are slow and natural risks high. Thus, smallholders, like large companies, prefer good soils for tree growing to avoid high fertilizer and pesticide inputs (Hoch et al, 2009). Consequently, the environmental contribution of plantations established for the generation of income is potentially low and may be even negative (see Chapter 5).

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