Stand age and soils as drivers of plant functional traits and aboveground biomass in secondary tropical dry forest

Justin M. Becknell, Jennifer S. Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations

Abstract

The distribution of tropical forest biomass across the landscape is poorly understood, particularly in increasingly common secondary tropical forests. We studied the landscape-scale distribution of edaphic properties, plant community characteristics, and aboveground biomass (AGB) in secondary tropical dry forests in northwest Costa Rica. We used structural equation modeling to examine conceptual models of relationships among these factors, with data from 84 0.1 ha plots. Stand age and soils explained 33%-60% of the variation in community-weighted mean values of foliar traits including specific leaf area, foliar nitrogen, phosphorus, and δ13C. Aboveground biomass ranged from 1.7 to 409 Mg·ha-1 among plots between 5 and >100 years old. Stand age alone explained 46% of the variation in AGB among plots, while a model including age, soil pH, traits, and forest type explained 58%. Stand age was the most important variable explaining the distribution of AGB and community characteristics in secondary forests. We speculate that plot size, landscape heterogeneity, disturbance history, and stand dynamics contribute to the unexplained variation in AGB across the landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-613
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume44
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Keywords

  • Aboveground biomass
  • Plant functional traits
  • Secondary forest
  • Structural equation modeling
  • Succession
  • Tropical dry forest

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