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Aboveground Biomass Accumulation in a Tropical Wet Forest in Nicaragua Following a Catastrophic Hurricane Disturbance 1

Wiley Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
  • Agricultural Science


Among their effects on forest structure and carbon dynamics, hurricanes frequently create large-scale canopy gaps that promote secondary growth. To measure the accumulation of aboveground biomass (AGBM) in a hurricane damaged forest, we established permanent plots 4 mo after the landfall of Hurricane Joan on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua in October 1988. We quantified AGBM accumulation in these plots by correlating diameter measurements to AGBM values using a published allometric regression equation for tropical wet forests. In the first measurement year following the storm, AGBM in hurricane-affected plots was quite variable, ranging from 26 to 153 Mg/ha, with a mean of 78 (±15) Mg/ha. AGBM was substantially lower than in two control plots several kilometers outside the hurricane's path (331 ±15 Mg/ha). Biomass accumulation was slow (5.36 ± 0.74 Mg/ha/yr), relative to previous studies of forest regeneration following another hurricane (Hugo) and agricultural activity. We suggest that large-scale, homogenous canopy damage caused by Hurricane Joan impeded the dispersal and establishment of pioneer trees and led to a secondary forest dominated by late successional species that resprouted and survived the disturbance. With the relatively slow rate of biomass accumulation, any tightening in disturbance interval could reduce the maximum capacity of the living biomass to store carbon.

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