Litterfall production plays a fundamental role in the dynamics and function of tropical forest ecosystems, as it supplies 70–80% of nutrients entering the soil. This process varies annually and seasonally, depending on multiple environmental factors. However, few studies spanning several years have addressed the combined effect of climate variables, successional age, topography, and vegetation structure in tropical dry forests. In this study, we evaluated monthly, seasonal, and annual litterfall production over a five-year period in semideciduous dry forests of different successional ages growing on contrasting topographic conditions (sloping or flat terrain) in Yucatan, Mexico. Its relationship with climate and vegetation structural variables were also analyzed using multiple linear regression and generalized linear models. Litterfall was measured monthly in 12 litterfall traps of 0.5 m2 in three sampling clusters (sets of four 400 m2 sampling plots) established in forests of five successional age classes, 3–5, 10–17, 18–25, 60–79, and >80 years (in the latter two classes either on slopping or on flat terrain), for a total of 15 sampling clusters and 180 litterfall traps. Litterfall production varied between years (negatively correlated with precipitation), seasons (positively correlated with wind speed and maximum temperature), and months (negatively correlated with relative humidity) and was higher in flat than in sloping sites. Litterfall production also increased with successional age until 18–25 years after abandonment, when it attained values similar to those of mature forests. It was positively correlated with the aboveground biomass of deciduous species but negatively correlated with the basal area of evergreen species. Our results show a rapid recovery of litterfall production with successional age of these forests, which may increase with climate changes such as less precipitation, higher temperatures, and higher incidence of hurricanes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Norwegian government, CONAFOR, UNPD, FAO; Project: “Fortalecimiento de la preparación REDD+ en México y fomento de la cooperación Sur-Sur”.
Acknowledgments: The study reported in this paper is part of the Ph. D. dissertation of the first author at the Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, A.C. The first author thanks the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología-Mexico for the scholarship to pursue his doctoral studies. We thank the local community of Xkobenhaltun for kindly granting access to their forested land, Fernando Tun Dzul for his help with Figure 1, and Antonio Pool Chan and Cristina Moreno for their assistance with field work. María Elena Sánchez-Salazar translated a first draft of the manuscript into English.
- Interannual variation
- Leaf litter
- Successional age
- Topographic position
- Vegetation structure
- Wind speed