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Tropical understory herbaceous community responds more strongly to hurricane disturbance than to experimental warming.

Authors
  • Kennard, Deborah K1
  • Matlaga, David2
  • Sharpe, Joanne3
  • King, Clay1
  • Alonso-Rodríguez, Aura M4
  • Reed, Sasha C5
  • Cavaleri, Molly A6
  • Wood, Tana E4
  • 1 Colorado Mesa University Grand Junction CO USA.
  • 2 Susquehanna University Selinsgrove PA USA.
  • 3 Sharplex Services Edgecomb ME USA.
  • 4 USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry Río Piedras Puerto Rico USA. , (Puerto Rico)
  • 5 U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Biological Science Center Moab UT USA.
  • 6 College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science Michigan Technological University Houghton MI USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Ecology and Evolution
Publisher
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2020
Volume
10
Issue
16
Pages
8906–8915
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6589
PMID: 32884666
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

The effects of climate change on tropical forests may have global consequences due to the forests' high biodiversity and major role in the global carbon cycle. In this study, we document the effects of experimental warming on the abundance and composition of a tropical forest floor herbaceous plant community in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. This study was conducted within Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment (TRACE) plots, which use infrared heaters under free-air, open-field conditions, to warm understory vegetation and soils + 4°C above nearby control plots. Hurricanes Irma and María damaged the heating infrastructure in the second year of warming, therefore, the study included one pretreatment year, one year of warming, and one year of hurricane response with no warming. We measured percent leaf cover of individual herbaceous species, fern population dynamics, and species richness and diversity within three warmed and three control plots. Results showed that one year of experimental warming did not significantly affect the cover of individual herbaceous species, fern population dynamics, species richness, or species diversity. In contrast, herbaceous cover increased from 20% to 70%, bare ground decreased from 70% to 6%, and species composition shifted pre to posthurricane. The negligible effects of warming may have been due to the short duration of the warming treatment or an understory that is somewhat resistant to higher temperatures. Our results suggest that climate extremes that are predicted to increase with climate change, such as hurricanes and droughts, may cause more abrupt changes in tropical forest understories than longer-term sustained warming. @ 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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