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.

Estimating soil turnover rate from tree uprooting during hurricanes in Puerto Rico

Lenart, Melanie T.; Falk, D.A.; Scatena, F.N.; Osterkamp, W.R. 2010. Estimating soil turnover rate from tree uprooting during hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Forest Ecology and Management. 259:1076-1084.

Soil turnover by tree uprooting in primary and secondary forests on the island of Puerto Rico was measured in 42 study plots in the months immediately after the passage of a Category 3 hurricane. Trunk basal area explained 61% of the variability of mound volume and 53% of the variability of mound area. The proportion of uprooted trees, the number of uprooted trees, or the proportion of uprooted basal area explained 84–85% of the variation in hurricane-created mound area. These same variables explain 79–85% of the variation in mound volume. The study indicates that the soil turnover period from tree uprooting by Puerto Rican hurricanes is between 1600 and 4800 years. These rates are faster than soil turnover by landslides and background treefall in the same area and provide a useful age constraint on soil profile development and soil carbon sequestration in these dynamic landscapes.


The objective of this study was to examine the climatology of tropical storms that impacted the U.S. Virgin Islands from Hurricane Hugo (1989) through Hurricane Lenny (1999).

New evidence for enhanced ocean primary production triggered by tropical cyclone

Lin, I., W. T. Liu, C.-C. Wu, G. T.
F. Wong, C. Hu, Z. Chen, W.-D. Liang, Y. Yang, and K.-K. Liu,
New evidence for enhanced ocean primary production triggered
by tropical cyclone, Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(13), 1718,
doi:10.1029/2003GL017141, 2003.

New evidence based on recent satellite data is presented to provide a rare opportunity in quantifying the long-speculated contribution of tropical cyclones to enhance ocean primary production. In July 2000, moderate cyclone Kai-Tak passed over the South China Sea (SCS). During its short 3-day stay, Kai-Tak triggered an average 30-fold increase in surface chlorophyll-a concentration. The estimated carbon fixation resulting from this event alone is 0.8 Mt, or 2–4% of SCS’s annual new production. Given an average of 14 cyclones passing over the SCS annually, we suggest the long-neglected contribution of tropical cyclones to SCS’s annual new production may be as much as 20–30%. INDEX TERMS: 4275 Oceanography: General: Remote sensing and electromagnetic processes (0689); 4805 Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Biogeochemical cycles (1615); 0315 Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Biosphere/ atmosphere interactions; 4504 Oceanography: Physical: Air/sea interactions (0312); 1615 Global Change: Biogeochemical processes (4805).

Low Atlantic hurricane activity in the 1970s and 1980s compared to the past 270 years

Nyberg, J., B. A. Malmgren, A. Winter, M. R.
Jury, K. H. Kilbourne, and T. M. Quinn
(2007), Low Atlantic hurricane activity in the
1970s and 1980s compared to the past 270
years, Nature, 447, 698–701.

Hurricane activity in the North Atlantic Ocean has increased significantly since 1995 (refs 1, 2). This trend has been attributed to both anthropogenically induced climate change3 and natural variability1, but the primary cause remains uncertain. Changes in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the past can provide insights into the factors that influence hurricane activity, but reliable observations of hurricane activity in the North Atlantic only cover the past few decades2. Here we construct a record of the frequency of major Atlantic hurricanes over the past 270 years using proxy records of vertical wind shear and sea surface temperature (the main controls on the formation of major hurricanes in this region1,3–5) from corals and a marine sediment core. The record indicates that the average frequency of major hurricanes decreased gradually from the 1760s until the early 1990s, reaching anomalously low values during the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, the phase of enhanced hurricane activity since 1995 is not unusual compared to other periods of high hurricane activity in the record and thus appears to represent a recovery to normal hurricane activity, rather than a direct response to increasing sea surface temperature. Comparison of the record with a reconstruction of vertical wind shear indicates that variability in this parameter primarily controlled the frequency of major hurricanes in the Atlantic over the past 270 years, suggesting that changes in the magnitude of vertical wind shear will have a significant influence on future hurricane activity.

Atlantic Subtropical Storms. Part II: Climatology

Guishard, Mark P., Jenni L. Evans, Robert E. Hart, 2009: Atlantic Subtropical Storms. Part II: Climatology. J. Climate, 22, 3574–3594.
doi: 10.1175/2008JCLI2346.1

A 45-yr climatology of subtropical cyclones (ST) for the North Atlantic is presented and analyzed. The STs pose a warm-season forecasting problem for subtropical locations such as Bermuda and the southern United States because of the potentially rapid onset of gale-force winds close to land. Criteria for identification of ST have been developed based on an accompanying case-study analysis. These criteria are applied here to the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-40) to construct a consistent historical database of 197 North Atlantic ST in 45 yr. Because ST may eventually evolve into tropical cyclones, sea surface temperatures (SST) and vertical wind shear conditions for tropical cyclogenesis are contrasted with the conditions for ST genesis identified here. Around 60% of the 197 ST formed over SST in excess of 258C in a region of weak static stability. Further, the mean environmental vertical wind shear at formation for these storms is 10.7 m s21, a magnitude generally considered to be unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis. The STs have hybrid structure, so the potential for baroclinic and thermodynamic development is explored through the baroclinic zone (characterized by the Eady growth rate s) and SST field. Seasonal evolution in the location and frequency of ST formation in the basin is demonstrated to correspond well to the changing region of overlap between SST . 258C and s . 0.1 day21. This climatology is contrasted with two alternative ST datasets. The STs contribute to 12% of tropical cyclones (TC) in the current National Hurricane Center (NHC) Hurricane Database (HURDAT); this equivalent to about 1 in 8 genesis events from an incipient ST disturbance. However, with the addition of 144 ST that are newly identified in this climatology (and not presently in HURDAT) and the reclassification (as not ST) of 65 existing storms in HURDAT, 197/597 storms (33%) in the newly combined database are ST, which emphasizes the potential importance of these warm-season storms.

Short-Term Disappearance of Foliar Litter in Three Species Before and After a Hurricane'

Short-Term Disappearance of Foliar Litter in Three Species before and after a Hurricane
Neal H. Sullivan, William B. Bowden and William H. McDowell
Vol. 31, No. 3 (Sep., 1999), pp. 382-393

Litter disappearance was examined before (1989) and after (1990) Hurricane Hugo in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico using mesh litterbags containing abscised Cyrilla racemiflora or Dacryodes excelsa leaves or fresh Prestoea montana leaves. Biomass and nitrogen dynamics were compared among: (i) species; (ii) mid- and high elevation forest types; (iii) riparian and upland sites; and (iv) pre- and post-hurricane disturbed environments. Biomass disappearance was compared using multiple regression and negative exponential models in which the slopes were estimates of the decomposition rates subsequent to apparent leaching losses and the y-intercepts were indices of initial mass losses (leaching). Cyrilla racemiflora leaves with low nitrogen (0.39%) and high lignin (22.1%) content decayed at a low rate and immobilized available nitrogen. Dacryodes excelsa leaves had moderate nitrogen (0.67%) and lignin (16.6%) content, decayed at moderate rates, and maintained the initial nitrogen mass. Prestoea montana foliage had high nitrogen (1.76%) and moderate lignin (16.7%) content and rapidly lost both mass and nitrogen. There were no significant differences in litter disappearance and nitrogen dynamics among forest types and slope positions. Initial mass loss of C. racemiflora leaves was lower in 1990 but the subsequent decomposition rate did not change. Initial mass losses and the overall decomposition rates were lower in 1990 than in 1989 for Dacryodes excelsa. Dacryodes excelsa and C. racemiflora litter immobilized nitrogen in 1990 but released 10-15 percent of their initial nitrogen in 1989, whereas P. montana released nitrogen in both years (25-40%). Observed differences in litter disappearance rates between years may have been due to differences in the timing of precipitation. Foliar litter inputs during post-hurricane recovery of vegetation in Puerto Rico may serve to immobilize and conserve site nitrogen.

At What Temporal Scales Does Disturbance Affect Belowground Nutrient Pools?

At What Temporal Scales Does Disturbance Affect Belowground Nutrient Pools?
Whendee L. Silver, Fred N. Scatena, Arthur H. Johnson, Thomas G. Siccama and Fiona Watt
Vol. 28, No. 4, Part A. Special Issue: Long Term Responses of Caribbean Ecosystems to Disturbances (Dec., 1996), pp. 441-457

We monitored the effects of both harvesting aboveground biomass and Hurricane Hugo on soil chemical and physical properties, and live and dead root biomass over 6 yr in a subtropical wet forest in Puerto Rico. Our goal was to determine how belowground processes changed at different temporal scales including the immediate period prior to revegetation (9 wk), the intermediate period of initial regrowth (9 mo), and the longer-term reorganization of the vegetation and biogeochemical cycling (6 yr). Harvesting resulted in temporary increases in the availability of exchangeable nutrients, but forest floor and soil nutrient pools had generally returned to pre-harvest values over a 9 wk period. Significant amounts of K moved through the soil over this time period, amounting to 29-46 kg/ha-1, and resulting in a reduction in the size of the exchangeable soil K pool. The hurricane deposited approximately 845 kg/ha-1 of forest floor mass and considerable nutrients on the soil surface, and increased soil NO3-N and exchangeable K pools, but in all cases, pool sizes had returned to pre-hurricane values within 9 mo. Examination of the data on an annual time step over the 6 yr period revealed an increase in soil cation pools and a significant decrease in soil pH. No change in soil organic matter was detected at any time step following the disturbances. Live fine root biomass was dramatically reduced as a result of the hurricane, and was only beginning to show signs of recovery near the end of the 6 yr experiment.

Effects of Hurricane Disturbance on Stream Water Concentrations and Fluxes in Eight Tropical Forest Watersheds of the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

SCHAEFER, DOUGLAS. A.; McDOWELL, WILLIAM H.; SCATENA, FREDRICK N.; ASBURY,CLYDE E. 2000. Effects of hurricane disturbance on stream water concentrations and fluxes in eight tropical forest watersheds of the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. . Journal of Tropical Ecology 16:189-207

Stream water chemistry responds substantially to watershed disturbances, but hurricane effects have not been extensively investigated in tropical regions. This study presents a long-term (2.5-1 1 y) weekly record of stream water chemistry on eight forested watersheds (catchment basins) in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. This includes a period before and at least 2 y after the disturbance caused by the 1989 Hurricane Hugo. Nitrate, potassium and ammonium concentrations increased after the hurricane and remained elevated for up to 2 y. Sulphate, chloride, sodium, magnesium and calcium showed smaller relative significant changes. Average stream water exports of potassium, nitrate and ammonium increased by 13.1, 3.6 and 0.54 kg ha-' y-' in the first post-hurricane year across all watersheds. These represent increases of 119, 182 and 102% respectively, compared to the other years of record. The increased stream outputs of potassium and nitrogen in the first 2 y post-hurricane are equivalent to 3% (potassium) and 1% (nitrogen) of the hurricanederived plant litter. Effects of hurricanes on tropical stream water potassium and nitrogen can be greater than those caused by canopy gaps or limited forest cutting, but less than those following large-scale deforestation or fire.

Effects of Hurricane Disturbance on Groundwater Chemistry and Riparian Function in a Tropical Rain Forest

Effects of Hurricane Disturbance on Groundwater Chemistry and Riparian Function in a Tropical Rain Forest
William H. McDowell, Claire P. McSwiney and William B. Bowden
Vol. 28, No. 4, Part A. Special Issue: Long Term Responses of Caribbean Ecosystems to Disturbances (Dec., 1996), pp. 577-584

The long-term response of shallow groundwater chemistry to the canopy disturbance and defoliation associated with Hurricane Hugo was studied at two sites in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. The sites differed in bedrock type, dominant vegetation, and availability of pre-hurricane data. At the primary study site, the Bisley catchment, hurricane disturbance resulted in increased concentrations of NO3 -, NH4 +, dissolved organic N, base cations, Cl-, and SiO2 in groundwater within 5 mo of the hurricane. The largest relative change in concentration occurred for K+, which increased from 0.7 to as high as 13 mg/L, concentrations were still 1.3 mg/L 5.5 yr after the hurricane. Most other solutes had returned to background levels within 1-2 yr of the hurricane. At the secondary study site, the Icacos catchment, NO3 - concentrations peaked at 1.1 mg/L one yr after the hurricane and decreased to nearly zero 5.5 yr after the hurricane. At both sites, NO3 - concentrations were higher in upslope wells than in those closer to the stream. Overall, riparian processes appear to reduce but not eliminate hydrologic losses of N following catastrophic disturbance. The nature of the long-term biogeochemical response to disturbance in this tropical rain forest ecosystem is similar to that observed in some montane temperate forests, and the time course of recovery appears to be associated with the speed with which vegetation regrows following disturbance.
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