THE URIARTE LAB
Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology
Interactive effects of climate variability and human land use on long-term community dynamics of successional wet forests
Jess K. Zimmerman, University of Puerto Rico
Jill Thompson, CEH, Edinburgh
Secondary forests in the tropics currently comprise roughly half the world’s remaining tropical forests. Despite the increasing importance of secondary forest regeneration throughout the tropics, research on the ecology and dynamics of secondary forests has lagged behind studies conducted in mature forests. The inherent complexity of successional processes challenges our ability to provide clear predictions of the future status of tropical secondary forests and their global role in sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. Both stochastic and deterministic processes drive secondary forest succession and local (stand-level) patterns are highly dependent on physical and biotic features of the disturbed site and of the surrounding landscape and region.
Our research is conducted in the Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot (LFDP), a 16-ha plot of subtropical wet forest in the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Puerto Rico, part of a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site and the Smithsonian network of large plots (CTFS) The LFDP has been subject to dramatic natural and human disturbance providing a much needed perspective on the effects of these disturbances on forest structure and composition. We rely on spatially-explicit, stand-level, mechanistic models of forest dynamics that explore how variation in life history traits (e.g., response to wind damage and drought) among tree species determines forest resilience to hurricane disturbance and regional drought and how human land-use legacies affect recovery processes.