Farmland to Forest… or Maybe Not?

When farmland is abandoned it’s a new start for wildlife; it creates a new landscape for secondary succession to occur. But, how does the activities that took place on the land before abandonment effect the future growth and biodiversity of the land? The actions on the land when it was being managed have many effects on the land after abandonment.

Ecological succession is the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time, and second succession is succession resulting from a seed bank. In order for succession to take place, the soil in which the plants will grow must be healthy, however, farmland is not known to have healthy soil for natural wildlife due to the agricultural activities that take place.

Secondary Succession

Agricultural practices causes soil to be changed or negatively affected, causing secondary succession to develop more slowly. Here is a small list of the agricultural practices and their affects that cause harm to soil:
Tilling(plowing): linked to disruptions in the habitat space for soil organisms, such as earthworms, which helps seeds to germinate.
-Herbicides+pesticides: have various non-target effects on an ecosystem, such as soil destruction and harmful effects on animals and plants, which can persist over long periods of time.
-Fertilizers: change the chemical makeup and pH levels of soil, creating difficulty for many species to grow.
-Livestock: change the course of growth for many species, and this is due to their waste, grazing, and veterinarian interventions.

Effects of Agricultural Practices on Soil Health

Agricultural practices, such as the ones mentioned, create a barrier for natural wildlife to develop. Although it may take longer and organisms may have to overcome more barriers, abandoned farmland is a great place for secondary succession to happen. Abandoning farmland may be worrisome at first, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Benefits include active reforestation, water regulation, soil recovery, nutrient cycling and increased biodiversity and wilderness, while the biggest downside to abandoning farmland is reduced agricultural security. It is time to put the environment and other species above our own needs, and time to stop practicing harmful activities. We have a chance to reinvent the landscape of abandoned farmlands, and instead of developing on these lands, we should let nature take its course and redevelop into the natural beauty it can be, even if it takes a couple of decades to be what it once was.


  1. Tu M, Hurd C, Randall JM. 2001. Weed Control Methods Handbook: Tools & Techniques for Use in Natural Areas. The Nature Conservancy Wildland Invasive Species Team. <>.
  2. Ericson, Jenny. “Managing Invasive Plants.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, Feb. 2009,
  3. “HOW FARMING AFFECTS SOIL LIFE.” Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, 2019,

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