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Effects of Vegetation Thinning on Above- and Belowground Carbon in a Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest in Mexico

Rodrigo Vargas, Edith B. Allen and Michael F. Allen
Biotropica
Vol. 41, No. 3 (May, 2009), pp. 302-311
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20492568
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Effects of Vegetation Thinning on Above- and Belowground Carbon in a Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest in Mexico
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Abstract

Mature tropical forests are disappearing and secondary forests are becoming more abundant, thus there is an increasing need to understand the ecology and management of secondary forests. In the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, seasonally dry tropical forests are subject to frequent fire, and early-successional stands are extremely dense. We applied vegetation thinning (removal of all stems < 2 cm in diameter) to hasten secondary succession and open the understory to reduce the fire ladder in an 11-yr-old stand. We quantified the effect of vegetation thinning on above- and belowground carbon over 5 yr. Aboveground carbon included all standing vegetation and belowground carbon included fine roots and organic carbon in the Oi, Oe, and Oa soil horizons. Trees with diameter of 2-10 cm and > 10 cm had higher carbon accumulation rates in thinned plots than in control plots. Carbon stored in the Oi-horizon and the Oe > 2 mm fraction remained significantly higher in thinned plots even 5 yr after treatment. Carbon in fine roots was significantly higher in thinned plots, and radiocarbon (¹⁴C) data suggest that fine roots in thinned plots were recently produced in comparison with fine roots in control plots. We did not find significant differences in total ecosystem carbon after 5 yr (126 ± 6 and 136 ± 8 Mg C/ha, respectively). These results suggest rapid carbon recovery and support the hypothesis that young tropical forests thinned to hasten succession and reduce the fire hazard may have only a short-term negative impact on carbon accumulation in vegetation and soils.

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