Ecosystem Development and Plant Succession on Landslides in the Caribbean

Ecosystem Development and Plant Succession on Landslides in the Caribbean
Lawrence R. Walker, Daniel J. Zarin, Ned Fetcher, Randall W. Myster and Arthur H. Johnson
Vol. 28, No. 4, Part A. Special Issue: Long Term Responses of Caribbean Ecosystems to Disturbances (Dec., 1996), pp. 566-576

Landslides are common in mountainous regions of the Caribbean and are triggered by heavy rains and earthquakes, and often occur in association with human disturbances (e.g., roads). Spatially heterogeneous removal of both substrate and vegetation is responsible for a variety of patterns of ecosystem development and plant successional trajectories within Caribbean landslides. Soil nutrient pools in exposed mineral soils reach levels comparable to mature forest soils within 55 yr but soil organic matter recovers more slowly. Plant colonization of landslides depends on the availability of propagules and suitable sites for germination, soil stability, and the presence of residual or newly deposited soil organic matter and associated nutrients. Once initial colonization occurs, the rate and trajectory of plant succession on landslides is strongly affected by plant/plant interactions. We present two conceptual models of landslide succession that summarize the major processes and pathways of ecosystem development and plant succession on landslides. Additional work is needed to characterize interactions between spatially heterogeneous zones, controls over soil development, impacts of key plant species, and the role of animals on Caribbean landslides.