Twelve testable hypotheses on the Geobiology of weathering

Brantley S.L., Megonigal J.P., Scatena F.N. et al 2010. Twelve testable hypotheses on the Geobiology of weathering. Geobiology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2010.00264.x

Critical Zone (CZ) research investigates the chemical, physical, and biological processes that modulate the Earth’s surface. Here, we advance 12 hypotheses that must be tested to improve our understanding of the CZ: (1) Solar-to-chemical conversion of energy by plants regulates flows of carbon, water, and nutrients through plant-microbe soil networks, thereby controlling the location and extent of biological weathering. (2) Biological stoichiometry drives changes in mineral stoichiometry and distribution through weathering. (3) On landscapes experiencing little erosion, biology drives weathering during initial succession, whereas weathering drives biology over the long term.(4) In eroding landscapes, weathering-front advance at depth is coupled to surface denudation via biotic processes.(5) Biology shapes the topography of the Critical Zone.(6) The impact of climate forcing on denudation rates in natural systems can be predicted from models incorporating biogeochemical reaction rates and geomorphological transport laws.(7) Rising global temperatures will increase carbon losses from the Critical Zone.(8) Rising atmospheric PCO2 will increase rates and extents of mineral weathering in soils.(9) Riverine solute fluxes will respond to changes in climate primarily due to changes in water fluxes and secondarily through changes in biologically mediated weathering.(10) Land use change will impact Critical Zone processes and exports more than climate change. (11) In many severely altered settings, restoration of hydrological processes is possible in decades or less, whereas restoration of biodiversity and biogeochemical processes requires longer timescales.(12) Biogeochemical properties impart thresholds or tipping points beyond which rapid and irreversible losses of ecosystem health, function, and services can occur.

The use of chronosequences in studies of ecological succession and soil development

Walker LR, Wardle DA, Bardgett RD, Clarkson BD (2010) The
use of chronosequences in studies of ecological succession
and soil development. J Ecol 98:725–736

1. Chronosequences and associated space-for-time substitutions are an important and often necessary tool for studying temporal dynamics of plant communities and soil development across multiple time-scales. However, they are often used inappropriately, leading to false conclusions about ecological patterns and processes, which has prompted recent strong criticism of the approach. Here, we evaluate when chronosequences may or may not be appropriate for studying community and ecosystem development. 2. Chronosequences are appropriate to study plant succession at decadal to millennial time-scales when there is evidence that sites of different ages are following the same trajectory. They can also be reliably used to study aspects of soil development that occur between temporally linked sites over time-scales of centuries to millennia, sometimes independently of their application to shorter-term plant and soil biological communities. 3. Some characteristics of changing plant and soil biological communities (e.g. species richness, plant cover, vegetation structure, soil organic matter accumulation) are more likely to be related in a predictable and temporally linear manner than are other characteristics (e.g. species composition and abundance) and are therefore more reliably studied using a chronosequence approach. 4. Chronosequences are most appropriate for studying communities that are following convergent successional trajectories and have low biodiversity, rapid species turnover and low frequency and severity of disturbance. Chronosequences are least suitable for studying successional trajectories that are divergent, species-rich, highly disturbed or arrested in time because then there are often major difficulties in determining temporal linkages between stages. 5. Synthesis. We conclude that, when successional trajectories exceed the life span of investigators and the experimental and observational studies that they perform, temporal change can be successfully explored through the judicious use of chronosequences.

Plant responses to simulated hurricane impacts in a subtropical wet forest, Puerto Rico

Shiels, Aaron B.; Zimmerman, Jess K.; García-Montiel, Diana C.; Jonckheere, Inge; Holm, Jennifer; Horton, David; Brokaw, Nicholas. 2010. Plant responses to simulated hurricane impacts in a subtropical wet forest, Puerto Rico. Journal of Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2010.01646.x.

1. We simulated two key components of severe hurricane disturbance, canopy openness and detritus deposition, to determine the independent and interactive effects of these components on woody plant recruitment and forest structure. 2. We increased canopy openness by trimming branches and added or subtracted canopy detritus in a factorial design. Plant responses were measured during the 4-year study, which followed at least 1 year of pre-manipulation monitoring. 3. The physical conditions of canopy openness and detritus deposition in our experiment resembled the responses to Hurricane Hugo, a severe category 4 hurricane that struck this forest in 1989. 4. Canopy detritus deposition killed existing woody seedlings and provided a mechanical barrier that suppressed seedling recruitment. The increase in understorey light caused by canopy trimming stimulated germination from the seed bank and increased seedling recruitment and density of pioneer species several hundred-fold when hurricane debris was absent. Many significant interactions between trimming and detritus deposition were evident from the manner in which seedling density, recruitment and mortality changed over time, and subsequently influenced the composition of woody stems (individuals ‡ 1 cmd.b.h.). 5. When the canopy was trimmed, stem densities increased> 2-fold and rates of recruitment into the stem size class increased> 25-fold. Trimming had no significant effect on stem mortality. The two dominant species that flourished following canopy trimming were the pioneer species Cecropia schreberiana and Psychotria berteriana. Deposition of canopy detritus had little effect on stems, although basal area increased slightly when detritus was added. There were no evident effects of the interactions between canopy trimming and detritus deposition on stems. 6. Synthesis. The separate and interactive effects of canopy openness and detritus deposition result in variable short-term trajectories of forest recovery. However, the short interval of increased canopy openness due to hurricane impacts and its influence on the recruitment of pioneer trees is the dominant factor that drives short-termrecovery and may alter long-term structure and composition of the forest.

Invertebrate communities in a tropical rain forest canopy in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Hugo

Schowalter, T. W., and L. M. Ganio. 1999. Invertebrate communities
in a tropical rain forest canopy in Puerto Rico
following Hurricane Hugo. Ecological Entomology 24:

1. Canopy invertebrate responses to Hurricane Hugo, tree species, and recovery time were examined at the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Puerto Rico during 1991–92 and 1994–95. Six tree species representing early and late successional stages were examined in paired plots representing severe hurricane disturbance (most trees toppled) and light hurricane disturbance (all trees standing and most branches intact). 2. Hurricane disturbance affected invertebrate abundances significantly. Sap-suckers and molluscs were more abundant, and defoliators, detritivores, and emergent aquatic insects were less abundant in recovering tree-fall gaps than in intact forest during this 5-year period. These changes in functional organisation are consistent with comparable studies of arthropod responses to canopy removal during harvest in temperate forests. 3. Tree species also affected invertebrate abundances significantly, but invertebrate communities did not differ significantly between the three early successional and three later successional tree species. 4. Most taxa showed significant annual variation in abundances, but only two Homoptera species showed a significant linear decline in abundance through time, perhaps reflecting long-term trends during recovery. 5. Leaf area missing, an indicator of herbivore effect on canopy processes, showed significant seasonal and annual trends, as well as differences among tree species and hurricane treatments. Generally, leaf area missing peaked during the wet season each year, but reached its highest levels during an extended drought in 1994. Leaf area missing also tended to be higher on the more abundant tree species in each disturbance treatment. 6. Herbivore abundances and leaf area missing were not related to concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, or calcium in the foliage. 7. This study demonstrated that invertebrate community structure and herbivory are dynamic processes that reflect the influences of host species and variable environmental conditions.

the role of omnivory in a neotropical stream: separating diurnal and nocturnal effects

The Role of Omnivory in a Neotropical Stream: Separating Diurnal and Nocturnal Effects
Catherine M. Pringle and Toshihide Hamazaki
Vol. 79, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 269-280

The role of omnivory in structuring communities is potentially great in lowland neotropical streams that are characterized by an abundance of macroconsumers that consume both insects and algae. Here, we separate effects of natural densities of diurnal fishes and nocturnal shrimps in structuring the benthic community of a stream draining Costa Rica's Atlantic slope. We experimentally manipulated the spatial and temporal access of fishes and shrimps to benthic resources, in situ, using electric "fences" powered by solar-powered fence chargers. Both fishes and shrimps significantly reduced inorganic sediment mass, organic ashfree dry mass (AFDM), densities of larval Chironomidae, and total insects: their combined effects were greater than effects of either group alone, and there was no significant interaction. Fishes shifted algal community composition from diatoms to green and blue-green algae and benthic insect communities towards chironomids, while shrimps had no significant effect on community composition. Effects of fishes were generally greater than those of shrimps, and this is due, in part, to higher natural densities and foraging pressures of fishes. Furthermore, shrimps foraged for significantly longer periods of time in the treatment where fishes were excluded than in the combined fish and shrimp access treatment, suggesting that diurnally feeding fishes are strong "interactors," mediating resource availability to nocturnally feeding shrimps. Natural erosion and sediment-mediated effects of macroconsumers (both direct and indirect) also affected algal communities: a manual sediment removal experiment resulted in significant reductions of diatom biovolume and increases in the filament length of green and blue-green algae. Our results show the importance of: (1) assessing macroconsumer effects in a relatively natural depositional environment subject to background erosion and sloughing (i.e., in this case by using electric exclosures); (2) evaluating effects of natural densities of both diurnal and nocturnal macroconsumers through time in the context of these abiotic effects; and (3) distinguishing between the response of different types of algal resources (e.g., diatoms vs. green and blue-green algae), which are differentially affected by sedimentation and erosion. Cage experiments, short-term observations, or one-time sampling of undifferentiated "algae" may artificially overestimate trophic effects and underestimate abiotic effects. We found no evidence of a trophic cascade. Our findings are in agreement with the theoretical prediction that large-sized omnivores have strong direct trophic (feeding) effects, both on smaller primary consumers (insects) and basal resources (algae).

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.

Impacts of disturbance initiated by road construction in a subtropical cloud forest in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

Olander, Lydia P.; Scatena, F.N; Silver, Whendee L. 1998. Impacts of disturbance initiated by road construction in a subtropical cloud forest in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Forest Ecology and Management 109 ;33-49.

The impacts of road construction and the spread of exotic vegetation, which are common threats to upper elevation tropical forests, were evaluated in the subtropical cloud forests of Puerto Rico. The vegetation, soil and microclimate of 6-month-old road®lls, 35-year-old road®lls and mature forest with and without grass understories were compared. Recent road®lls had higher light levels, soil temperatures, bulk densities, larger pools of exchangeable soil nutrients and higher soil oxygen concentrations; but lower soil moisture, soil organic matter and total soil N than the mature forest. On the 35-year-old road®lls, bulk density, soil pH and P pools were statistically similar to the mature forest while soil moisture, total N and base cations were different. The total aboveground biomass of 6-month-old road®lls was about 2 Mg/ha and dominated by a variety of monocot and herbaceous species. The 35-year-old road®ll areas had a biomass of 10.5 Mg/ha, 77% of which was nonwoody. Seedling density, tree density and total woody biomass were 12, 28 and 2% of mature forest sites, respectively. In these areas, where soils were disturbed during construction, accumulation of biomass is the slowest known for the LEF. It may take 200-300 years for biomass to attain mature forest levels. In areas that were not directly disturbed during construction, the road has had little effect on the vegetative composition beyond a 5±10 m zone immediately adjacent to the pavement. Although non-native monocots, one of which had been planted along the road 35 years earlier, were copious along the disturbed roadside, they were generally absent from the mature forest and only abundant in habitats of anthropogenic origin.

Selection of riparian buffer zones in humid tropical steeplands

SCATENA FN (1990) Selection of riparian buffer zones in humid tropical
steeplands. In: RR Ziemer, CL O’Loughlin and LS Hamilton (eds.) Research Needs and Applications to Reduce Erosion and
Sedimentation in Tropical Steeplands: IAHS-AISH Pub. No. 192

This paper discusses various aspects of the design and costs of riparian protection zones in the humid steeplands of the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. This riparian community is dominated by successional species and can be protected without large losses in commercial timber. However, the cost of buffers increases geometrically as smaller order channels are buffered. Generally the costs associated with protecting intermittent streams is prohibitive in this highly dissected terrain. Depending on the design criteria used, protection zones along perennial streams can include between 5 and 20% of the commercial basal area while protecting 9 to 25% of the watersheds area.
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