disturbance ecology

Natural disturbance and human land use as determinants of tropical forest dynamics: results from a forest simulator

Uriarte, M., C. D. Canham, J. Thompson, J. K. Zimmerman,
L. Murphy, A. M. Sabat, N. Fetcher, and B. L.
Haines. 2009. Natural disturbance and human land
use as determinants of tropical forest dynamics:
results from a forest simulator. Ecological Monographs
79:423–443.

Abstract: 
Forests are often subject to multiple, compounded disturbances, representing both natural and human-induced processes. Predicting forest dynamics requires that we consider how these disturbances interact to affect species demography. Here we present results of an individual-based, spatially explicit forest simulator that we developed to analyze the compounded effects of hurricane disturbance and land use legacies on the dynamics of a subtropical forest. We used data from the 16-ha Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot in Puerto Rico, together with a reconstruction of historical wind damage, to parameterize the simulator. We used the model to ask two questions. (1) What are the implications of variation in hurricane frequency and severity for the long-term dynamics of forest composition, diversity, and structure? Both storm severity and frequency had striking effects on forest dynamics, composition, and structure. The periodicity of disturbance also played an important role, with periods of high hurricane activity fostering the establishment of species that may become rare in the absence of severe storms and quiescent periods allowing these species to reach reproductive size. Species responses to hurricane disturbance could not be predicted from their life history attributes. However, species perceived to be primary forest species exhibited low temporal variation in abundance through the simulations. (2) How do hurricanes and legacies from human land use interact to determine community structure and composition? Our results suggest that, over time, regardless of the storm regime, land use legacies will become less apparent but will lead to a forest community that contains a mixture of secondary and primary forest species formerly dominant in areas of different land use. In the long term, hurricane disturbance generated two communities with slightly greater similarity than those not subject to storms. Thus, the inclusion of hurricane disturbance does not alter the prediction that land use legacies in this tropical forest will diminish over time. Our simulations also highlight the contingent effects of human legacies on subsequent community dynamics, including the response to hurricane disturbance, therefore supporting the notion that compounded disturbances can interact in ways that cannot be predicted by the study of single disturbances. The widespread importance of land use as a large-scale disturbance makes it imperative that it be addressed as a fundamental ecological process.

Hurricane-induced nitrous oxide fluxes from a wet tropical forest

Erickson HE, Ayala G (2004) Hurricane-induced nitrous oxide
fluxes from a wet tropical forest. Global Change Biology, 10,
1155–1162.

Abstract: 
Hurricane activity is predicted to increase over the mid-Atlantic as global temperatures rise. Nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas with a substantial source from tropical soils, may increase after hurricanes yet this effect has been insufficiently documented. On September 21, 1998, Hurricane Georges crossed Puerto Rico causing extensive defoliation. We used a before–after design to assess the effect of Georges on N2O emissions, and factors likely influencing N2O fluxes including soil inorganic nitrogen pools and soil water content in a humid tropical forest at El Verde, Puerto Rico. Emissions of N2O up to 7 months post-Georges ranged from 5.92 to 4.26 ng cm2 h1 and averaged five times greater than fluxes previously measured at the site. N2O emissions 27 months after the hurricane remained over two times greater than previously measured fluxes. Soil ammonium pools decreased after Georges and remained low. The first year after the hurricane, nitrate pools increased, but not significantly when compared against a single measurement made before the hurricane. Soil moisture and temperature did not differ significantly in the two sampling periods. These results suggest that hurricanes increase N2O fluxes in these forests by altering soil N transformations and the relative availabilities of inorganic nitrogen.
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