Puerto Rico

Litter Dynamics Along Stream, Riparian and Upslope Areas Following Hurricane Hugo, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

Litter Dynamics Along Stream, Riparian and Upslope Areas Following Hurricane Hugo, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico
K. A. Vogt, D. J. Vogt, P. Boon, A. Covich, F. N. Scatena, H. Asbjornsen, J. L. O'Harra, J. Perez, T. g. Siccama, J. Bloomfield and J. F. Ranciato
Vol. 28, No. 4, Part A. Special Issue: Long Term Responses of Caribbean Ecosystems to Disturbances (Dec., 1996), pp. 458-470

Litterfall (fine and coarse) due to Hurricane Hugo and subsequent fine annual litterfall inputs (1, 2 and 5 yr after Hugo) were determined for two sites (El Verde and Bisley) in the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Puerto Rico. Litter transfers into streams, riparian and upslope areas were determined within each catchment. The recovery rate of aboveground fine litterfall (leaf, fine wood <1 cm diameter, and other miscellaneous inputs) to predisturbance levels were determined 1, 2, and 5 yr after Hurricane Hugo. The amount of total litter transfers and their individual components into the riparian and upslope areas due to Hurricane Hugo varied significantly by catchments within the Luquillo Experimental Forest. At El Verde, 26-39 percent, 31-35 percent, 14-35 percent and 7-12 percent of the total litter transfers were contributed by leaf litter, fine wood, coarse wood and fine roots, respectively. At Bisley, 28-31 percent, 26-29 percent, 33-35 percent and 8-10 percent of the litter transfers were contributed by the same categories. Differential decay rates contributed to the relative importance of fine and coarse litter inputs. The recovery of fine aboveground litterfall to pre-hurricane levels after 5 yr varied by topographic location (streams had the slowest recovery, upslope areas the highest) and catchment (El Verde: 55-77%; Bisley: 39-82% of pre-hurricane values).

Meteorological Impacts of Land Use Change in the Maritime Tropics

The island Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles. Measuring roughly 180 x 60 km, it is situated in the eastern Caribbean at 18o15’N and 66o30’W (figure 1.1). Apart from the coastal plains on the north and south coast, the island is mountainous, with the highest peaks in the central and north-eastern part of the island rising to elevations of 1000-1300 ma:s:l: (figure 1.2).

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.

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.

Modelling rainfall interception by a lowland tropical rain forest in northeastern Puerto Rico

Schellekensa, J.; Scatenab,F.N.; Bruijnzeela,L.A.; Wickela,A.J. 1999. Modelling rainfall interception by a lowland tropical rain forest in northeastern Puerto Rico. Journal of Hydrology 225 :168-184.

Recent surveys of tropical forest water use suggest that rainfall interception by the canopy is largest in wet maritime locations. To investigate the underlying processes at one such location—the Luquillo Experimental Forest in eastern Puerto Rico—66 days of detailed throughfall and above-canopy climatic data were collected in 1996 and analysed using the Rutter and Gash models of rainfall interception. Throughfall occurred on 80% of the days distributed over 80 rainfall events. Measured interception loss was 50% of gross precipitation. When Penman–Monteith based estimates for the wet canopy evaporation rate (0.11 mm h21 on average) and a canopy storage of 1.15 mm were used, both models severely underestimated measured interception loss. A detailed analysis of four storms using the Rutter model showed that optimizing the model for the wet canopy evaporation component yielded much better results than increasing the canopy storage capacity. However, the Rutter model failed to properly estimate throughfall amounts during an exceptionally large event. The analytical model, on the other hand, was capable of representing interception during the extreme event, but once again optimizing wet canopy evaporation rates produced a much better fit than optimizing the canopy storage capacity. As such, the present results support the idea that it is primarily a high rate of evaporation from a wet canopy that is responsible for the observed high interception losses.

Hydrological Processes in a humid Tropical Rain Forest: A Combined Experimental and Modelling Approach

Schellekens, J. 2000. Hydrological processes in a humid tropical rain
forest: a combined experimental and modeling approach. Ph.D.
Thesis, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam University
Press, 158 p.

With populations growing explosively in the tropical parts of the world, and the per capita water demands increasing where living standards improve, optimisation of water resources is becoming increasingly important [Bonell et al., 1993]. Similarly, the strong demands for industrial wood (pulpwood, saw and veneer logs), fuelwood and charcoal, require the establishment of large areas of fast-growing plantation forests, often on land that is currently not forested [Evans, 1992; Brown et al., 1997]. Coupled with (i) the continued indiscriminate clearing of the world’s tropical forests [Jepma, 1995; Nepstad et al., 1999] which in many areas serve as the traditional supplier of high quality water; (ii) the associated deterioration of soil and water quality due to erosion and pollution [Oldeman, 1994], plus (iii) the possibility of gradually less dependable precipitation inputs and (in certain ‘maritime’ tropical areas away from the equator) an increasing frequency of devastating hurricanes due to ‘global change’ [Wasser and Harger, 1992], a sound understanding of the hydrological functioning of tropical forests is arguably even more important nowadays than ever before [cf. Bruijnzeel, 1990, 2000a]. Bruijnzeel and Abdul Rahim [1992] suggested that in a time of dwindling resources, additional forest hydrological research in the humid tropics could best be carried out at a limited number of carefully selected data-rich key locations that could be loosely joined together in a network that captures the environmental variability encountered in the humid tropics. Furthermore, Bruijnzeel [1993] and Bonell and Balek [1993] considered a catchment-based approach to offer the best framework for such research as this allows for the integration of hydrological, geomorphological, pedological and ecological observations in a spatial context, particularly if supplemented by process studies and physicallybased distributed modelling.

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.

Non-Indigenous Bamboo along Headwater Streams of the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico: Leaf Fall, Aquatic Leaf Decay and Patterns of Invasion

O'CONNOR, PAUL J.; COVICH, ALAN P.; SCATENA, F. N.; LOOPE, LLOYD L. 2000. Non-indigenous bamboo along headwater streams of the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico: leaf fall, aquatic leaf decay and patterns of invasion. Journal of Tropical Ecology 16 :499-516.

The introduction of bamboo to montane rain forests of the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico in the 1930s and 1940s has led to present-day bamboo monocultures in numerous riparian areas. When a non-native species invades a riparian ecosystem, in-stream detritivores can be affected. Bamboo dynamics expected to in¯uence stream communities in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) were examined. Based on current distributions, bamboo has spread downstream at a rate of 8 m y-1. Mean growth rate of bamboo culms was 15.3 cm d-1. Leaf fall from bamboo stands exceeded that of native mixed-species forest by c. 30% over a 10-mo study. Bamboo leaves (k = -0.021), and leaves from another abundant riparian exotic, Syzygium jambos (Myrtaceae) (k = -0.018), decayed at relatively slow rates when submerged in streams in ®ne-mesh bags which excluded macro-invertebrate leaf processors. In a second study, with leaf processors present, bamboo decay rates remained unchanged (k = -0.021), while decay rates of S. jambos increased (k = -0.037). Elemental losses from bamboo leaves in streams were rapid, further suggesting a change in riparian zone / stream dynamics following bamboo invasion. As non-indigenous bamboos spread along Puerto Rico streams, they are likely to alter aquatic communities dependent on leaf input.

Orchid-Phorophyte Relationships in a Forest Watershed in Puerto Rico

Orchid-Phorophyte Relationships in a Forest Watershed in Puerto Rico
Luis E. Migenis and James D. Ackerman
Journal of Tropical Ecology
Vol. 9, No. 2 (May, 1993), pp. 231-240

Orchid diversity, distribution and host specificity were examined in a tropical watershed in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico. Eleven orchid species occur in the area. The low diversity is attributed to island isolation and large-scale hurricane disturbances. Pleurothallis ruscifolia and Maxillaria coccinea were by far the most abundant species in the area and occurred on the largest number of host species and host zones. None of the orchids were host specific or host zone specialists although preferences for hosts and vertical host zones were encountered. Only 8.2% of the 426 trees and shrubs and 24.4% of the 45 species surveyed were orchid phorophytes (= hosts). Examination of host distribution by diameter at breast height (DBH) showed that 80.5% were greater than 16 cm DBH. Orchid species in the area tend to occur on rough bark hosts, but their preferences are not statistically significant. Guarea guidonia (Meliaceae) and Dacryodes excelsa (Burseraceae) are the two most important orchid hosts in our study site comprising 62.9% of all host trees. Careful management of these two tree species is suggested, since these species may be crucial to the maintenance of orchid abundance and diversity in the area.


Larsen, M.C., Torres-Sánchez, A.J., and Concepción, I.M., 1998, Slopewash, surface runoff, and fine-litter transport in forest and landslide scars in humid-tropical steeplands, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico [abs] EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union, vol. 80.

Slopewash, surface runoff, and fine-litter transport in forest and landslide scars in humid-tropical steeplands, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico Rainfall, slopewash (the erosion of soil particles), surface runoff, and fine-litter transport at humid-tropical steepland sites in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico (18° 20' N, 65° 45' W) were measured from 1991 to 1995. Hillslopes underlain by: 1) Cretaceous tuffaceous sandstone and siltstone in subtropical rain (tabonuco) forest with vegetation recovering from Hurricane Hugo (1989); and underlain by 2) Tertiary quartz diorite in subtropical lower montane wet (colorado and dwarf) forest with undisturbed forest canopy were compared to recent landslide scars. Monthly surface runoff on these very steep hillslopes (24° to 43°) was only 0.2 to 0.5 percent of monthly rainfall. Slopewash was higher in sandy loam soils whose parent material is quartz diorite (averaging 46 g m-2 a-1) than in silty-clay loam soils derived from tuffaceous sandstone and siltstone where the average was 9 g m-2 a-1. Annual slopewash of 100 to 349 g m-2 on the surfaces of two recent, small landslide scars was measured initially but slopewash decreased to only 3 to 4 g m-2 a-1 by the end of the study. The mean annual mass of fine litter (mainly leaves and twigs) transported downslope at the forested sites ranged from 5 to 8 g m-2 and was lower at the tabonuco forest site, where post-Hurricane Hugo recovery is still in progress. Mean annual fine-litter transport was 2.5 g m-2 on the two landslide scars.
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