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Understorey fern responses to post-hurricane fertilization and debris removal in a Puerto Rican rain forest

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2004

Leslie Finical Halleck
Affiliation:
The Dallas Arboretum, 8617 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218, USA
Joanne M. Sharpe
Affiliation:
Sharplex Services, P.O. Box 499, Edgecomb, Maine 04556, USA Corresponding author.
Xiaoming Zou Zou
Affiliation:
Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 23341, San Juan Puerto Rico 00931-3341, USA

Abstract

Controls over net primary productivity are the subject of a long-term experiment within a lowland subtropical wet forest in the Luquillo mountains of Puerto Rico. Responses of the fern community to fertilization and debris-removal treatments and to monitoring activities were assessed 6 y after the experiment began in October 1989, just after the passage of Hurricane Hugo. Negative fern responses to fertilization included a qualitative change in species composition and a 13-fold reduction in density compared with controls. Plants were smaller and spore production rates were lower. Debris removal reduced the number of species and increased the proportion of terrestrial species. Density of Nephrolepis rivularis individuals in debris-removal plots was only 5% that of control levels while abundance of Thelypteris deltoidea nearly doubled. Buffer-zone fern density was 36% greater than and per cent of leaves damaged was half that of the monitored zones. The magnitude of the responses of ferns to experimental treatments and to monitoring effects suggest that they may be good early indicators of change in a tropical forest.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2004 Cambridge University Press

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