Silver W.L.

A decade of belowground reorganization following multiple disturbances in a subtropical wet forest

Teh, Y.A.; Silver, W.L.; Scatena, F.N. 2009. A decade of belowground reorganization following multiple disturbances in a subtropical wet forest. Plant and Soil. 323: 197-212.

Humid tropical forests are dynamic ecosystems that experience multiple and overlapping disturbance events that vary in frequency, intensity, and spatial extent. Here we report the results of a 10-year study investigating the effects of forest clearing and multiple hurricanes on ecosystem carbon reservoirs, nutrient pools and vegetation. The aboveground plant community was most heavily affected by multiple disturbances, with the 9-year-old stands showing high rates of hurricane-induced mortality relative to surrounding forest. Belowground pools were less affected. Live fine root biomass fluctuated in response to multiple disturbances, but returned to pre-disturbance levels after 10 years. Soil C was resilient to clearing and hurricanes, probably due to the large pool size and high clay content. Soil P fluctuated over time, declining during periods of rapid plant recovery and growth. With the exception of K, base cations recovered within 2 years following clearing and showed little response to hurricane disturbance.

Impacts of disturbance initiated by road construction in a subtropical cloud forest in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

Olander, Lydia P.; Scatena, F.N; Silver, Whendee L. 1998. Impacts of disturbance initiated by road construction in a subtropical cloud forest in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Forest Ecology and Management 109 ;33-49.

The impacts of road construction and the spread of exotic vegetation, which are common threats to upper elevation tropical forests, were evaluated in the subtropical cloud forests of Puerto Rico. The vegetation, soil and microclimate of 6-month-old road®lls, 35-year-old road®lls and mature forest with and without grass understories were compared. Recent road®lls had higher light levels, soil temperatures, bulk densities, larger pools of exchangeable soil nutrients and higher soil oxygen concentrations; but lower soil moisture, soil organic matter and total soil N than the mature forest. On the 35-year-old road®lls, bulk density, soil pH and P pools were statistically similar to the mature forest while soil moisture, total N and base cations were different. The total aboveground biomass of 6-month-old road®lls was about 2 Mg/ha and dominated by a variety of monocot and herbaceous species. The 35-year-old road®ll areas had a biomass of 10.5 Mg/ha, 77% of which was nonwoody. Seedling density, tree density and total woody biomass were 12, 28 and 2% of mature forest sites, respectively. In these areas, where soils were disturbed during construction, accumulation of biomass is the slowest known for the LEF. It may take 200-300 years for biomass to attain mature forest levels. In areas that were not directly disturbed during construction, the road has had little effect on the vegetative composition beyond a 5±10 m zone immediately adjacent to the pavement. Although non-native monocots, one of which had been planted along the road 35 years earlier, were copious along the disturbed roadside, they were generally absent from the mature forest and only abundant in habitats of anthropogenic origin.

Suppression of methanogenesis by dissimilatory Fe(III)- reducing bacteria in tropical rain forest soils: implications for ecosystem methane flux

Teh, Y.A., Dubinsky, E.A., Silver, W.L., and Carlson, C.M.
(2008) Suppression of methanogenesis by dissimilatory Fe
(III)-reducing bacteria in tropical rain forest soils: implications
for ecosystem methane flux. Glob Change Biol 14:

Tropical forests are an important source of atmospheric methane (CH4), and recent work suggests that CH4 fluxes from humid tropical environments are driven by variations in CH4 production, rather than by bacterial CH4 oxidation. Competition for acetate between methanogenic archaea and Fe(III)-reducing bacteria is one of the principal controls on CH4 flux in many Fe-rich anoxic environments. Upland humid tropical forests are also abundant in Fe and are characterized by high organic matter inputs, steep soil oxygen (02) gradients, and fluctuating redox conditions, yielding concomitant methanogenesis and bacterial Fe(III) reduction. However, whether Fe(III)-reducing bacteria coexist with methanogens or competitively suppress methanogenic acetate use in wet tropical soils is uncertain. To address this question, we conducted a process-based laboratory experiment to determine if competition for acetate between methanogens and Fe(III)-reducing bacteria influenced CH4 production and C isotope composition in humid tropical forest soils. We collected soils from a poor to moderately drained upland rain forest and incubated them with combinations of C-13-bicarbonate, C-13-methyl labeled acetate ((CH3COO-)-C-13), poorly crystalline Fe(III), or fluoroacetate. CH4 production showed a greater proportional increase than Fe2+ production after competition for acetate was alleviated, suggesting that Fe(III)-reducing bacteria were suppressing methanogenesis. Methanogenesis increased by approximately 67 times while Fe2+ production only doubled after the addition of (CH3COO-)-C-13. Large increases in both CH4 and Fe2+ production also indicate that the two process were acetate limited, suggesting that acetate may be a key substrate for anoxic carbon (C) metabolism in humid tropical forest soils. C isotope analysis suggests that competition for acetate was not the only factor driving CH4 production, as C-13 partitioning did not vary significantly between (CH3COO-)-C-13 and (CH3COO-)-C-13 + Fe(III) treatments. This suggests that dissimilatory Fe(III)-reduction suppressed both hydrogenotrophic and aceticlastic methanogenesis. These findings have implications for understanding the CH4 biogeochemistry of highly weathered wet tropical soils, where CH4 efflux is driven largely by CH4 production.

Soil Oxygen Availability and Biogeochemistry along Rainfall and Topographic Gradients in Upland Wet Tropical Forest Soils

Silver W, Lugo AE, Keller M (1999) Soil oxygen availability and
biogeochemistry along rainfall and topographical gradients in
upland wet tropical forest soils. Biogeochemistry 44:301–

We measured soil oxygen concentrations at 10 and 35 cm depths and indices of biogeochemical cycling in upland forest soils along a rainfall and elevation gradient (3500– 5000 mm y−1; 350–1050 masl) and along topographic gradients (ridge to valley, 150 m) in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Along the rainfall gradient, soil O2 availability decreased significantly with increasing annual rainfall, and reached very low levels (<3%) in individual chambers for up to 25 consecutive weeks over 82 weeks of study. Along localized topographic gradients, soil O2 concentrations were variable and decreased significantly from ridges to valleys. In the valleys, up to 35% of the observations at 10–35 cm depth were <3% soil O2. Cross correlation analyses showed that soil O2 concentrations were significantly positively correlated along the topographic gradient, and were sensitive to rainfall and hydrologic output. Soil O2 concentrations in valley soils were correlated with rainfall from the previous day, while ridge sites were correlated with cumulative rainfall inputs over 4 weeks. Soils at the wettest point along the rainfall gradient had very high soil methane concentrations (3–24%) indicating a strong influence of anaerobic processes.We measured net methane emission to the atmosphere at the wettest sites of the rainfall gradient, and in the valleys along topographic gradients. Other measures of biogeochemical function such as soil organic matter content and P availability were sensitive to chronic O2 depletion along the rainfall gradient, but less sensitive to the variable soil O2 environment exhibited at lower elevations along topographic gradients.

Nutrient availability in a montane wet tropical forest: Spatial patterns and methodological considerations

Silver, W.L., F.N. Scatena, A.H. Johnson, T.G. Siccama, and M.J.
Sanchez. 1994. Nutrient availability in a montane wet tropical forest: Spatial patterns and methodological considerations. Plant Soil 164:129–145.

Soils and forest floor were sampled quantitatively from a montane wet tropical forest in Puerto Rico to determine the spatial variability of soil nutrients, the factors controlling nutrient availability to vegetation, and the distribution of nutrients in soil and plants. Exchangeable cation concentrations were measured using different soil extracting procedures (fresh soil with NH4C1, air-dried and ground soil with KC1, and a Modified Olsen solution) to establish a range of nutrient availability in the soil, and to determine the relationship between different, but commonly used laboratory protocols. The availability of exchangeable Ca, Mg, and K was significantly lower in soils extracted fresh with NHaCI than from soils which were dried and ground prior to extraction with KCI or a modified Olsen solution. Soil nutrient availability generally decreased with depth in the soil. Several soil properties important to plant growth and survival varied predictably across the landscape and could be viewed in the context of a simple catena model. In the surface soils, exchangeable base cation concentrations and pH increased along a gradient from ridge tops to riparian valleys, while soil organic matter, exchangeable Fe and acidity decreased along this gradient. On the ridges, N, P, and K were positively correlated with soil organic matter; on slopes, N and P were positively correlated with organic matter, and Ca, Kg, and pH were negatively correlated with exchangeable Fe. Nutrient availability in the upper catena appears to be primarily controlled by biotic processes, particularly the accumulation of organic matter. The Ca, K, and P content of the vegetation was higher on ridges and slopes than in the valley positions. Periodic flooding and impeded drainage in the lower catena resulted in a more heterogeneous environment. A comparison of the Bisley, Puerto Rico soils with other tropical montane forests (TMF) revealed that the internal heterogeneity of soils in the Bisley Watersheds is similar to the range of average soil nutrient concentrations among TMF's for Ca, Mg, and K (dry/ground soils). Phosphorus tended to be slightly higher in Bisley and N was lower than in other TMFs.

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.

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.

Biomass and Nutrient Content of the Bisley Experimental Watersheds, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico, Before and After Hurricane Hugo

Biomass and Nutrient Content of the Bisley Experimental Watersheds, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico, Before and After Hurricane Hugo, 1989
F. N. Scatena, W. Silver, T. Siccama, A. Johnson and M. J. Sanchez
Vol. 25, No. 1 (Mar., 1993), pp. 15-27

The biomass and nutrient content of two steepland watersheds were estimated using allometric equations and nutrient concentrations derived from a subsample of the vegetation. Prior to the passage of Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, the watersheds had a total vegetative biomass of 301 tons/ha, 75 percent of which was aboveground. The total nutrient content of this vegetation was 907, 49, 644, 653, and 192 kg/ha for N, P, K, Ca, and Mg, respectively and varied with topographic setting. Concentrations per unit dry weight of P (0.16), K (2.49), Ca (2.13), and Mg (0.62) in aboveground vegetation were similar to other steepland tropical forests, while the concentration of N (2.9) was greater. Following the passage of Hurricane Hugo, the standing aboveground biomass was reduced to 113 t/ha and the aboveground nutrient content of the forest was reduced 45 to 48 percent.
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