Tropical forests can recover after anthropogenic disturbances of light to moderate intensity (Aide et al. 1995, 1996, 2000; Uhl 1987, Uhl et al. 1988); however, severe disturbances (e.g. compaction or loss of soil) often result in conditions that prevent forest recovery. These degraded sites are often dominated by grasses (Aide & Cavelier 1994, Cabin et al. 2002, Cavelier et al. 1998, Uhl et al. 1988) and ferns (Cohen et al. 1995, García et al. 1994, Slocum et al. 2000, Walker & Boneta 1995) that can impose barriers for tree regeneration and arrest the succession process. Important barriers for tree regeneration include: (1) competition with grasses and ferns for soil moisture, nutrients and light (Aide & Cavelier 1994, Guimarães-Vieira et al. 1994, Holl et al. 2000, Nepstad et al. 1996, Russell et al. 1998, Walker 1994, Zimmerman et al. 2000), and (2) dispersal limitation given that grasses and fernlands offer few resources that attract seed dispersers (Guevara & Laborde 1993, Holl et al. 2000, McDonnell & Stiles 1983, Slocum & Horvitz 2000, Zimmerman et al. 2000).