Liana dynamics reflect land-use history and hurricane response in a Puerto Rican forest
Hogan JA; Mayorquin S; Rice K; Thompson J; Zimmerman JK
Journal of Tropical Ecology
We studied lianas in a subtropical wet forest in Puerto Rico to understand how hurricane impacts and past human land-uses interact to affect liana dynamics over a 14-year period. We compared a high-intensity land-use area where the forest that had been cleared and used for subsistence agriculture before being abandoned in 1934 then regrew to a low-intensity land-use area in which there had been only some selective experimental logging by the USDA Forest Service in the 1940s. Prior to our study both areas were strongly affected by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and again damaged to a lesser degree by Hurricane Georges in 1998 increasing canopy openness and subsequently increasing tree stem densities. Between 2001 and 2015 changes in the light environment and the recovery of forest structure resulted in roughly a 50% reduction in tree stem densities in the high-intensity land-use area as recruited saplings naturally thinned. In this area liana abundance increased by 103% liana biomass tripled and occupancy of trees by lianas grew by nearly 50%. In the low-intensity land-use area juvenile stem densities were stable and resultantly liana abundance only increased by 33% liana biomass rose 39% and the occupancy of trees was constant. Liana flower and fruit production increased over the 14-year interval and these increases were much greater in the high-intensity land-use quadrats. Results of this study do show how rapid forest tree successional dynamics coincide with liana increases but the confounding of hurricane effects of disturbance at our site prevent us from asserting that the increases in liana density and biomass can be attributed to the same causes as those in forests elsewhere in the Neotropics.