Secondary forest

Long-term influence of deforestation on tree species composition and litter dynamics of a tropical rain forest in Puerto Rico

Zou X, Zucca CP, Waide RB & McDowell WH (1995)
Long-term influence of deforestation on tree species composition
and litter dynamics of a tropical rain forest in
Puerto Rico. Forest Ecology and Management 78:

Understanding the long-term impact of deforestation on ecosystem structure and function of tropical forests may aid in designing future conservation programs to preserve biodiversity and sustain ecosystem productivity. We examined forest structure, tree species composition, litterfall rate, and leaf litter decomposition in a mid-successional forest (MSF) and an adjacent mature tabonuco forest (MTF) in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico. Whereas the MTF site received limited human disturbance, the MSF site had been cleared for timber production by the beginning of this century and was abandoned after hurricanes struck the Luquillo Mountains in the 1920s and 1930s. We found that the MSF was dominated by successional tree species 50 years after secondary succession, and did not differ in tree basal area and litterfall rate from the MTF. Leaf decomposition rate in the MSF was higher than in the MTF, but this differencew as small.O ur resultss how that deforestation has long-term (over 50 years) influence on tree species composition and that recovery of leaf decomposition processes in secondary forest is relatively faster than that of tree species composition.

The Status of Puerto Rico’s Forests, 2003

Brandeis, Thomas J.; Helmer, Eileen H.; Oswalt, Sonja N. 2007. The status of Puerto Rico's forests, 2003. Resour. Bull. SRS-119. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 72 p.

Puerto Rico’s forest cover continues to increase and is now 57 percent for mainland Puerto Rico, 85 percent for Vieques, and 88 percent for Culebra. Subtropical dry forest occupies 50 346 ha, 6832 ha, 2591 ha, and 6217 ha on the islands of Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, and Mona, respectively. Subtropical moist forest, the most prevalent forested life zone on mainland Puerto Rico, had 49 percent forest cover or 258 861 ha of forest. Subtropical wet and rain forest occupies 161 503 ha, lower montane wet and rain forest occupies 11 723 ha at the highest elevations, and mangrove forest occupies 7920 ha in coastal areas. Puerto Rico’s forests were found to have over 1,602,378,689 trees over 2.5 cm in diameter and 10 607 847 m2 of basal area, and to hold 36.6 million Mg of sequestered carbon. There were 3,112 trees, 19.2 m2 of basal area, 68.25 m3 of merchantable stem volume, and 80 Mg of aboveground biomass in an average hectare of forest. The subtropical moist and wet and rain secondary forests inventoried in 1990 are still young and increasing in average basal area, which rose from 13.2 mm2/ha in 1980, to 15.2 m2/ha in 1990, to the current level of 20.9 mm2/ha. The most important tree species were the African tuliptree [Spathodea campanulata] Beauv., American muskwood [<="" i="">] (L.) Sleumer, cabbagebark tree [Andira inermis] (W. Wright) Kunth ex DC., and pumpwood [Cecropia schreberiana] Miq. Few unhealthy, stressed trees werenoted and widespread pest and disease problems were not observed. Only 12.9 percent of live trees had some type of damage or disease. Average per-hectare amounts of down woody material, forest floor duff, and forest floor litter generally increased as the forest environment became more humid. Small-to-medium forest fire fuels were most common in subtropical dry forests, while medium-to-large fuels were most common in more humid forest life zones.


MARIN-SPIOTTA, E. ; OSTERTAG, R.; SILVER W. L. 2007. Long-term, patterns in tropical reforestation: plant community composition and aboveground biomass accumulation.. Ecological Applications, 17(3), :828-839.

Primary tropical forests are renowned for their high biodiversity and carbon storage, and considerable research has documented both species and carbon losses with deforestation and agricultural land uses. Economic drivers are now leading to the abandonment of agricultural lands, and the area in secondary forests is increasing. We know little about how long it takes for these ecosystems to achieve the structural and compositional characteristics of primary forests. In this study, we examine changes in plant species composition and aboveground biomass during eight decades of tropical secondary succession in Puerto Rico, and compare these patterns with primary forests. Using a well-replicated chronosequence approach, we sampled primary forests and secondary forests established 10, 20, 30, 60, and 80 years ago on abandoned pastures. Tree species composition in all secondary forests was different from that of primary forests and could be divided into early (10-, 20-, and 30-year) vs. late (60- and 80-year) successional phases. The highest rates of aboveground biomass accumulation occurred in the first 20 years, with rates of C sequestration peaking at 6.7 6 0.5 Mg Cha1yr1. Reforestation of pastures resulted in an accumulation of 125 Mg C/ha in aboveground standing live biomass over 80 years. The 80 year-old secondary forests had greater biomass than the primary forests, due to the replacement of woody species by palms in the primary forests. Our results show that these new ecosystems have different species composition, but similar species richness, and significant potential for carbon sequestration, compared to remnant primary forests.


Heartsill-Scalley T, Aide TM. 2003. Riparian vegetation and stream condition
in a tropical agriculture–secondary forest mosaic. Ecological
Applications 13: 225–234.

Changes in land cover from forest to agriculture often alter riparian vegetation, which modifies the physical conditions of streams. To understand the impacts of different categories of land cover on riparian and stream habitats, we sampled riparian vegetation and stream conditions in three adjacent watersheds in southeastern Puerto Rico. Land cover categories (pasture, mixed, and forest) were determined using aerial photographs. Vegetation structure and composition and characteristics of streams were assessed for 35 riparian sites. Sites were located along first-order streams, at 400–600 m elevation in the wet-forest life zone. Understory vegetation in the forest sites was mainly shrubs, herbs, and ferns, whereas the mixed and pasture sites were dominated by grasses, vines, and bare soil. Syzygium jambos and Spathodea campanulata, nonnatives, and Guarea guidonia, a native, were the most common tree species in the riparian areas. Surrounding land cover explained .60% of the variation among stream sites. There was a positive relationship between tree cover and percentage of dissolved oxygen, and a negative relationship between tree cover and percentage of substrata covered by sediments from eroded soil. The amount of woody debris in the streams tended to increase with forest cover. Overall, land cover is a landscape feature that effectively characterized riparian understory cover, tree species composition, and stream condition

Effects of an invasive tree on community structure and diversity in a tropical forest in Puerto Rico

Brown, K. A. ; Scatena, F. N., and Gurevitch, J. 2006. Effects of an invasive tree on community structure and diversity in a tropical forest in Puerto Rico. . Forest Ecology and Management . 2006; 226:145-152.

We report the effects of an invasive tree (Syzygium jambos, Myrtaceace) on species composition, plant diversity patterns, and forest regeneration in primary and secondary forest in the Luquillo Mountains of northeastern Puerto Rico, including the area in and around the Caribbean National Forest (CNF) and the Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research site (Luquillo LTER). Land use history was reconstructed using aerial photographs from 1936 to 1989 and study sites were categorized into four groups that corresponded to their status in 1936: unforested, young secondary, mature secondary, and primary forests. In randomly selected forest stands in each forest type, we measured the abundance of invasive and native tree species, seedling recruitment for S. jambos as well as soil nutrient pools and tested for the effects of land use history on S. jambos density and diversity. A partial Mantel test was used to control for historical and elevational differences across study sites. The results indicate that S. jambos density was highest in habitats classified in 1936 as unforested, young, or mature secondary forests. Compared to all other forest classes, species diversity was significantly higher in primary forests. However, there was no statistically significant difference between observed and estimated species richness across the four forest types. S. jambos density and species diversity were strongly negatively correlated, even after controlling for land use history and elevation. There was significantly higher S. jambos seedling recruitment in areas that were either unforested or had young secondary forests in 1936. The results also indicate that S. jambos is able to establish viable populations in habitats with different soil nutrient status. S. jambos has also altered vegetation composition and diversity patterns in habitats where it is the dominant tree species. After nearly 185 years since its introduction to the island, S. jambos is not only well established within 30 m of stream channels, its presence does not appear to be limited by topographic, soil nutrient, or elevational conditions. This study suggests that land use change and subsequent plant invasions have produced a new vegetation assemblage that has led to potentially long-term changes in community structure, species composition, and successional trajectory in regenerating secondary forests in the Luquillo Mountains.
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