Gonzalez G.

Leaffall Phenology in a Subtropical Wet Forest in Puerto Rico: From Species to Community Patterns

Zalamea, M. & González, G. (2008) Leaffall phenology in a subtropical wet forest in Puerto
Rico: from species to community patterns. Biotropica, 40, 295-304.

leaffall periodicity has been related to rainfall regime and dry season length. In weakly seasonal forests, where there is no marked dry season, other climatic factors could trigger leaf shed. In this study, we aimed to determine if other climatic variables (wind speed, solar radiation, photosynthetic photon flux density [PPFD], day length, temperature, and relative humidity) could be better correlated with patterns of litter and leaffall in a weakly seasonal subtropical wet forest in Puerto Rico. Leaffall patterns were correlated mainly with solar radiation, PPFD, day length, and temperature; and secondarily with rainfall. Two main peaks of leaffall were observed: April–June and August–September, coinciding with the periods of major solar radiation at this latitude. Community leaffall patterns were the result of overlapping peaks of individual species. Of the 32 species analyzed, 21 showed phenological patterns, either unimodal (16 species), bimodal (three species), or multimodal (two species). Lianas also presented leaffall seasonality, suggesting that they are subject to the same constraints and triggering factors affecting trees. In addition to solar radiation as a main determinant of leaffall timing in tropical forests, our findings highlight the importance of interannual variation and asynchrony, suggesting that leaffall is the result of a complex interaction between environmental and physiological factors.

Structure and composition of vegetation along an elevational gradient in Puerto Rico

Gould, W.A.; González, G.; Carrero Rivera, G. 2006. Structure and composition of vegetation along an elevational gradient in Puerto Rico.. Journal of Vegetation Science 17: 563-574, .

Question: What are the composition, conservation status, and structural and environmental characteristics of eight mature tropical forest plant communities that occur along an elevational gradient. Location: Northeastern Puerto Rico. Methods: We quantified the species composition, diversity, conservation status, and ecological attributes of eight mature tropical forest plant communities in replicated plots located to sample representative components of important forest types occurring along an elevational gradient. A suite of environmental and vegetation characteristics were sampled at each plot and summarized to characterize communities and analyse trends along the elevational gradient. Results: The set of communities included 374 species; 92% were native, 14% endemic, and 4% critical elements (locally endangered) to the island. All communities, occurring within a wide range of patch sizes and degree of conservation protection, showed a high percentage of native species (> 89% per plot). The lowland moist forest communities, occurring within a matrix of urbanization, agriculture, and disturbance, had the highest degree of invasion by exotics. Community descriptions were nested within a variety of hierarchies to facilitate extrapolation of community characteristics to larger ecosystem units. Basal area, above-ground biomass, canopy heights, and mean species richness peaked at mid elevations. Conclusions: It is significant that all of these forest communities continue to be dominated by native species while existing in a matrix of human and natural disturbance, species invasion, and forest regeneration from widespread agriculture. The lowland moist and dry forest types represent a minority of the protected forested areas in Puerto Rico, serve as unique genetic reservoirs, and should be protected.

Earthworm communities along an elevation gradient in Northeastern Puerto Rico

Gonzalez, Grizelle; Garcia, Emerita; Cruz, Veronica; Borges, Sonia; Zalamea, Marcela; Rivera, Maria M. 2007. Earthworm communities along an elevation gradient in Northeastern Puerto Rico.. European Journal of Soil Biology 43 .

In this study, we describe earthworm communities along an elevation gradient of eight forest types in Northeastern Puerto Rico, and determine whether their abundance, biomass and/or diversity is related to climatic, soil physical/chemical and/or biotic characteristics. We found that the density, biomass, and diversity of worms varied significantly among forest types. The density of earthworms was highest in the Pterocarpus forest. In terms of biomass, both elfin and the Pterocarpus forests had the highest values. The number of earthworm species significantly increased as elevation and annual rainfall increased and air temperature decreased. We conclude that differences in earthworm species richness along this elevation gradient may be due to a combination of biotic and soil physical and chemical factors. Soil pH and root length density are important predictors of number of worm species along this elevation gradient.

A Canopy Trimming Experiment in Puerto Rico: The Response of Litter Invertebrate Communities to Canopy Loss and Debris Deposition in a Tropical Forest Subject to Hurricanes

Richardson, Barbara A.; Richardson, Michael J.; Gonzalez, Grizelle; Shiels, Aaron B.; Srivastava, Diane S. 2010. A canopy trimming experiment in Puerto Rico: the response of litter invertebrate communities to canopy loss and debris deposition in a tropical forest subject to hurricanes. Ecosystems. 13: 286-301.

Hurricanes cause canopy removal and deposition of pulses of litter to the forest floor. A Canopy Trimming Experiment (CTE) was designed to decouple these two factors, and to investigate the separate abiotic and biotic consequences of hurricane-type damage and monitor recovery processes. As part of this experiment, effects on forest floor invertebrate communities were studied using litterbags. Canopy opening resulted in increased throughfall, soil moisture and light levels, but decreased litter moisture. Of these, only throughfall and soil moisture had returned to control levels 9 months after trimming. Canopy opening was the major determinant of adverse changes in forest floor invertebrate litter communities, by reducing diversity and biomass, irrespective of debris deposition, which played a secondary role. Plots subjected to the most disturbance, with canopy removed and debris added, had the lowest diversity and biomass. These two parameters were higher than control levels when debris was added to plots with an intact canopy, demonstrating that increased nutrient potential or habitat complexity can have a beneficial effect, but only if the abiotic conditions are suitable. Animal abundance remained similar over all treatments, because individual taxa responded differentlyto canopy trimming. Mites, Collembola, and Psocoptera, all microbiovores feeding mainly on fungal hyphae and spores, responded positively, with higher abundance in trimmed plots, whereas all other taxa, particularly predators and larger detritivores, declined in relative abundance. Litterbag mesh size and litter type had only minor effects on communities, and canopy trimming and debris deposition explained most variation between sites. Effects of trimming on diversity, biomass, and abundance of some invertebrate taxa were still seen when observations finished and canopy closure was complete at 19 months. This suggests that disturbance has a long-lasting effect on litter communities and may, therefore, delay detrital processing, depending on the severity of canopy damage and rate of regrowth.
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