Ostertag R.

Carbon Sequestration and Plan Community Dynamics Following Reforestation of Tropical Pasture

Silver W.L., Kuppers L.M., Lugo A.E. et al. Carbon Sequestration and Plan Community Dynamics Following Reforestation of Tropical Pasture. Ecological Applications, Vol 14(4), 2004 pp 1115-1127.

Abstract: 
Conversion of abandoned cattle pastures to secondary forests and plantations in the tropics has been proposed as a means to increase rates of carbon (C) sequestration from the atmosphere and enhance local biodiversity. We used a long-term tropical reforestation project (55–61 yr) to estimate rates of above- and belowground C sequestration and to investigate the impact of planted species on overall plant community structure. Thirteen tree species (nine native and four nonnative species) were planted as part of the reforestation effort in the mid to late 1930s. In 1992, there were 75 tree species (.9.1 cm dbh) in the forest. Overall, planted species accounted for 40% of the importance value of the forest; planted nonnative species contributed only 5% of the importance value. In the reforested ecosystem, the total soil C pool (0–60 cm depth) was larger than the aboveground C pool, and there was more soil C in the forest (102 6 10 Mg/ha [mean 6 1 SE]) than in an adjacent pasture of similar age (69 6 16 Mg/ha). Forest soil C (C3-C) increased at a rate of ;0.9 Mg·ha21·yr21, but residual pasture C (C4-C) was lost at a rate of 0.4 Mg·ha21·yr21, yielding a net gain of 33 Mg/ha as a result of 61 years of forest regrowth. Aboveground C accumulated at a rate of 1.4 6 0.05 Mg·ha21·yr21, to a total of 80 6 3 Mg/ha. A survey of 426 merchantable trees in 1959 and 1992 showed that they grew faster in the second 33 years of forest development than in the first 22 years, indicating that later stages of forest development can play an important role in C sequestration. Few indices of C cycling were correlated with plant community composition or structure. Our results indicate that significant soil C can accumulate with reforestation and that there are strong legacies of pasture use and reforestation in plant community structure and rates of plant C sequestration.

LONG-TERM PATTERNS IN TROPICAL REFORESTATION: PLANT COMMUNITY COMPOSITION AND ABOVEGROUND BIOMASS ACCUMULATION

MARIN-SPIOTTA, E. ; OSTERTAG, R.; SILVER W. L. 2007. Long-term, patterns in tropical reforestation: plant community composition and aboveground biomass accumulation.. Ecological Applications, 17(3), :828-839.

Abstract: 
Primary tropical forests are renowned for their high biodiversity and carbon storage, and considerable research has documented both species and carbon losses with deforestation and agricultural land uses. Economic drivers are now leading to the abandonment of agricultural lands, and the area in secondary forests is increasing. We know little about how long it takes for these ecosystems to achieve the structural and compositional characteristics of primary forests. In this study, we examine changes in plant species composition and aboveground biomass during eight decades of tropical secondary succession in Puerto Rico, and compare these patterns with primary forests. Using a well-replicated chronosequence approach, we sampled primary forests and secondary forests established 10, 20, 30, 60, and 80 years ago on abandoned pastures. Tree species composition in all secondary forests was different from that of primary forests and could be divided into early (10-, 20-, and 30-year) vs. late (60- and 80-year) successional phases. The highest rates of aboveground biomass accumulation occurred in the first 20 years, with rates of C sequestration peaking at 6.7 6 0.5 Mg Cha1yr1. Reforestation of pastures resulted in an accumulation of 125 Mg C/ha in aboveground standing live biomass over 80 years. The 80 year-old secondary forests had greater biomass than the primary forests, due to the replacement of woody species by palms in the primary forests. Our results show that these new ecosystems have different species composition, but similar species richness, and significant potential for carbon sequestration, compared to remnant primary forests.

The potential for carbon sequestration through reforestation of abandoned tropical agricultural and pasture lands

Silver, W.L. et al. (2000) The potential for carbon sequestration
through reforestation of abandoned tropical agricultural and pasture
lands. Rest. Ecol. 8, 394–407

Abstract: 
Approximately half of the tropical biome is in some stage of recovery from past human disturbance, most of which is in secondary forests growing on abandoned agricultural lands and pastures. Reforestation of these abandoned lands, both natural and managed, has been proposed as a means to help offset increasing carbon emissions to the atmosphere. In this paper we discuss the potential of these forests to serve as sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide in aboveground biomass and soils. A review of literature data shows that aboveground biomass increases at a rate of 6.2 Mg ha−1 yr−1 during the first 20 years of succession, and at a rate of 2.9 Mg ha−1 yr−1 over the first 80 years of regrowth. During the first 20 years of regrowth, forests in wet life zones have the fastest rate of aboveground carbon accumulation with reforestation, followed by dry and moist forests. Soil carbon accumulated at a rate of 0.41 Mg ha−1yr−1 over a 100-year period, and at faster rates during the first 20 years (1.30 Mg carbon ha−1 yr−1). Past land use affects the rate of both above- and belowground carbon sequestration. Forests growing on abandoned agricultural land accumulate biomass faster than other past land uses, while soil carbon accumulates faster on sites that were cleared but not developed, and on pasture sites. Our results indicate that tropical reforestation has the potential to serve as a carbon offset mechanism both above- and belowground for at least 40 to 80 years, and possibly much longer. More research is needed to determine the potential for longer-term carbon sequestration for mitigation of atmospheric CO2 emissions.

Litterfall and Decomposition in Relation to Soil Carbon Pools Along a Secondary Forest Chronosequence in Puerto Rico

Ostertag, R.; Marín-Spiotta, E.; Silver, W.L.; Schulten, J. 2008. Litterfall and decomposition in relation to soil carbon pools along a secondary forest chronosequence in Puerto Rico. Ecosystems. 11:701-714.

Abstract: 
Secondary forests are becoming increasingly widespread in the tropics, but our understanding of how secondary succession affects carbon (C) cycling and C sequestration in these ecosystems is limited. We used a well-replicated 80-year pasture to forest successional chronosequence and primary forest in Puerto Rico to explore the relationships among litterfall, litter quality, decomposition, and soil C pools. Litterfall rates recovered rapidly during early secondary succession and averaged 10.5 (± 0.1 SE) Mg/ha/y among all sites over a 2-year period. Although forest plant community composition and plant life form dominance changed during succession, litter chemistry as evaluated by sequential C fractions and by 13C-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy did not change significantly with forest age, nor did leaf decomposition rates. Root decomposition was slower than leaves and was fastest in the 60-year-old sites and slowest in the 10- and 30-year-old sites. Common litter and common site experiments suggested that site conditions were more important controls than litter quality in this chronosequence. Bulk soil C content was positively correlated with hydrophobic leaf compounds, suggesting that there is greater soil C accumulation if leaf litter contains more tannins and waxy compounds relative to more labile compounds. Our results suggest that most key C fluxes associated with litter production and decomposition re-establish rapidly—within a decade or two—during tropical secondary succession. Therefore, recovery of leaf litter C cycling processes after pasture use are faster than aboveground woody biomass and species accumulation, indicating that these young secondary forests have the potential to recover litter cycling functions and provide some of the same ecosystem services of primary forests.

Forest Floor Decomposition Following Hurricane Litter Inputs in Several Puerto Rican Forests

Rebecca Ostertag, Frederick N. Scatena, and Whendee L. Silver. 2003. Forest Floor Decomposition Following Hurricane Litter Inputs in Several Puerto Rican Forests. Ecosystems 6 :261-273.

Abstract: 
Hurricanes affect ecosystem processes by altering resource availability and heterogeneity, but the spatial and temporal signatures of these events on biomass and nutrient cycling processes are not well understood. We examined mass and nutrient inputs of hurricane-derived litter in six tropical forests spanning three life zones in northeastern Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Georges. We then followed the decomposition of forest floor mass and nutrient dynamics over 1 year in the three forests that experienced the greatest litter inputs (moist, tabonuco, and palm forests) to assess the length of time for which litter inputs influence regeneration and nutrient cycling processes. The 36-h disturbance event had litterfall rates that ranged from 0.55 to 0.93 times annual rates among the six forests; forest floor ranged between 1.2 and 2.5 times prehurricane standing stocks. The upperelevation forest sites had the lowest nonhurricane litterfall rates and experienced the lowest hurricane litterfall and the smallest relative increase in forest floor standing stocks. In the three intensively studied forests, the forest floor returned to prehurricane values very quickly, within 2–10 months. The palm forest had the slowest rate of decay (k  0.74  0.16 y–1), whereas the tabonuco forest and the moist forest had similar decay rates (1.04  0.12 and 1.09  0.14, respectively). In the moist forest, there were short-term increases in the concentrations of nitrogen (N), hosphorus (P), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) in litter, but in the other two forests nutrient concentrations generally decreased. The rapid disappearance of the hurricane inputs suggests that such pulses are quickly incorporated into nutrient cycles and may be one reason for the extraordinary resilience of these forests to wind disturbances.
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