Abandoned fields turn into forests 5 times faster than thought

Russian scientists studied abandoned arable land in the European part of Russia. The study showed that trees start to grow on the abandoned fields immediately after the land has been withdrawn from agricultural use. This finding contradicts the belief that trees appear in the fields only after grass that was approved earlier. As it turned out, the presence or absence of grass fires in a given area plays a key role in the stages and rate of overgrowth.

The area of abandoned land in the Russian Federation s huge. Arable land was massively abandoned in the late 1980s - early 1990s due to the socio-economic changes. For the first two years, such abandoned lands are overgrown with birch and pine trees. Spontaneous overgrowing of forest vegetation occurs even in fields that have been used in agriculture for a long period of time.

"Our results showed the key role of grass fires in shaping differences in soil and vegetation in restoring abandoned lands. Settlement of forest species without fires occurs very quickly if this field is near a forest rich in different species. Although usually the time required for this is estimated as 100, 200 or even 300 years, we saw that the restoration of forest flora on former arable lands took only 20 years", notes researchers from the Pushchino Science City in Russia.
Via eurekalert.org

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