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13 March 2008 ‘Nucleating’ succession in recovering neotropical wet forests: The legacy of remnant trees
Justin R. Schlawin, R. A. Zahawi
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Question: What is the influence of remnant trees on secondary forest structure and composition in tropical pastures many years after abandonment?

Location: Neotropical lowland wet forest, La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.

Methods: Tree and sapling density, basal area, and species richness were quantified at three distances from remnant trees, 0 – 10 m (inner), 20 - 30 m (intermediate), and ca. 50 m (distal) zones. A total of 15 remnant trees were sampled in pastures ~23 years after abandonment.

Results: Tree density decreased along a gradient from inner (1117 ± 377 individuals/ha) to distal (592 ± 282 individuals/ha) zones, and the number of large-seeded individuals (seeds > 1 cm diameter) was significantly greater in the inner zone. Basal area of tree individuals was greater in the inner (25.6 ± 12 m2/ha) and intermediate (28.3 ± 15.6 m2/ha) zones than the distal zone (14.7 ± 7.2 m2/ha), but there were no differences between inner and intermediate zones. Similar patterns are reported for species richness. Additionally, saplings (1 - 5 cm DBH) had higher density directly beneath and adjacent to remnants, suggesting that remnant trees can affect recruitment even many years after pasture abandonment and the formation of a surrounding secondary forest.

Conclusions: Results indicate that remnant trees facilitate forest recovery over a broad temporal range, and appear to ‘nucleate’ forest regeneration by expanding their sphere of influence outward over time.

Justin R. Schlawin and R. A. Zahawi "‘Nucleating’ succession in recovering neotropical wet forests: The legacy of remnant trees," Journal of Vegetation Science 19(4), 485-492, (13 March 2008).
Received: 31 March 2007; Accepted: 1 August 2007; Published: 13 March 2008

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