Diversity and composition of tropical secondary forests recovering from large-scale clearing: results from the 1990 inventory in Puerto Rico

Chinea, J. Danilo; Helmer, Eileen H. 2003. Diversity and composition of tropical secondary forests recovering from large-scale clearing: results from the 1990 inventory in Puerto Rico.. Forest Ecology and Management 180 :227-240.

Abstract: 
The extensive recovery from agricultural clearing of Puerto Rican forests over the past half-century provides a good opportunity to study tropical forest recovery on a landscape scale. Using ordination and regression techniques, we analyzed forest inventory data from across Puerto Rico’s moist and wet secondary forests to evaluate their species composition and whether the landscape structure of older forest affected tree species composition of recovering forests at this scale. Our results support conclusions from studies conducted in Puerto Rico at smaller scales and temperate forests at larger scales that timing of abandonment and land use history are of overwhelming importance in determining the species composition of recovering forests. Forest recovery is recent enough in Puerto Rico that previous land use is clearly evident in current species composition, and creates new forest communities. As demonstrated in other work, physical factors such as elevation and substrate co-vary with land use history, so that the species composition of the forest landscape results from the interplay between biophysical and socioeconomic forces over time. Our results also indicate that increasing the distance to the largest forest patches occurring in the landscape 12 years previous had a small negative impact on species richness but not species diversity or community composition.We conclude that land use history has as much influence in species composition as biophysical variables and that, at the scale of this study, there is no large influence of forest landscape structure on species diversity or composition.