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.

Decay rate and substrate quality of fine roots and foliage of two tropical tree species in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

Bloomfield, J., K. A. Vogt, and D. J. Vogt. 1993. Decay rate and substrate quality of fine roots and foliage of two tropical tree species in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Plant and Soil 150:233-245.

Decomposition rates, initial chemical composition, and the relationship between initial chemistry and mass loss of fine roots and foliage were determined for two woody tropical species, Prestoea montana and Dacryodes excelsa, over a gradient of sites in two watersheds in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. At all locations, fine roots decayed significantly more slowly than foliage during the initial 6 months. Substrate quality of the initial tissue showed marked differences between roots and foliage when using cell wall chemistry, secondary chemistry and total elemental analysis as indices. Quantity of acid detergent fiber (ADF) (non-digestible cell wall fiber) and lignin content were higher for roots than leaves: D. excelsa roots had 55.3% ADF and 28.7% lignin while leaves had 36.2% ADF and 11.8% lignin; P. montana roots had 68.0% ADF and 26.8% lignin while leaves had 48.5% ADF and 16.1% lignin. Aluminum concentrations were higher in fine roots (843 mg kg -x in D. excelsa, 1500 mg kg -x in P. montana) than leaves (244mg kg -x in D. excelsa, 422mgkg -1 in P. montana), while calcium concentrations were higher in foliage (5.5 mg g-1 in D. excelsa, 7.8 mg g-X in P. montana) than roots (3.4mgg -1 in D. excelsa, 3.1 mgg -x in P. montana). Nitrogen did not show any trend with tissue or species type. A linear model between mass remaining after 6 months and initial tissue chemistry could be developed only for calcium (r 2= 0.64).
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