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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Functional traits to predict financial value of enrichment planting in degraded tropical forests

Lindh, Arvid; Sundqvist, Maja K.; Axelsson, E. Petter; Hasselquist, Niles J.; Aguilar, Francisco X.; Alloysius, David; Ilstedt, Ulrik


Demand for tropical timber is expected to rise due to an increased global need for sustainable renewable materials. However, sustainable tropical timber production remains a challenge for the global wood product supply chain, especially for high-value tropical hardwoods. Restoration of degraded lands through enrichment planting of native hardwood species could provide a solution, but the financial viability of using native tropical tree species remains largely unknown. We evaluated the financial viability of 22 hardwood tree species native to northern Borneo in enrichment plantings of a degraded forest in Sabah, Malaysia. We investigated how the species' financial value, expressed as an internal rate of return (IRR) based on land expectation value, varied with their functional trait composition. We found that high financial value was positively correlated with trait values associated with a conservative growth strategy, i.e., financial value was negatively correlated with leaf calcium, magnesium, and nitrogen content, as well as with leaf pH and specific leaf area. Trees with these traits showed a high IRR, partly explained by relatively fast growth and high survival rates. For the most economically promising species, Shorea macrophylla, we estimated that enrichment planting for forest restoration could reach IRRs up to 7.8%. Our results showed that enrichment planting for high-value hardwood production in degraded forests can be financially viable, with variation among species, and that various traits associated with a more conservative growth strategy were linked to high financial value.


Tropical forests; Borneo; Functional traits; Forest restoration; Financial value

Published in

New Forests
Publisher: SPRINGER