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Journal Article

Ecological Observations on Degraded and Secondary Forest in Trinidad, British West Indies: I. General Features of the Vegetation

P. Greig-Smith
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 40, No. 2 (Oct., 1952), pp. 283-315
DOI: 10.2307/2256802
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2256802
Page Count: 33
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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.
Ecological Observations on Degraded and Secondary Forest in Trinidad,
              British West Indies: I. General Features of the Vegetation
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Abstract

The physiography and climate of Trinidad are briefly described. The climate is a seasonal tropical one. Four samples of secondary and disturbed forest and one of relatively undisturbed forest were examined in detail by means of a lattice of 5 ft. (1.5 m.) plots. The present vegetation is described. The original vegetation of the disturbed sites probably varied, as Beard (1944) has suggested, according to soil and local topography, with Semi-evergreen Seasonal Forest on the driest sites and various faciations of Evergreen Seasonal Forest elsewhere. The five sites fall into three groups, natural forest (site E), degraded forest which has suffered considerable interference but never been cultivated (sites A and C) and, secondary forest following cultivation (earlier stage at site B, later stage at site D). Comparison of survival rates at different heights at the disturbed sites with those at site E shows a lower mortality at lower heights compensated by greater mortality at 11-20 ft. (3.4-6.1 m.). The disturbed sites have a lower percentage of individuals of endemic species and, at least the secondary forest sites, a higher percentage of individuals of species of very wide geographical distribution. The disturbed sites have a number of species more characteristic of drier habitats than those of the presumed original vegetation. Primary forest species were present at all the disturbed sites and were becoming established at site D (later stage of secondary forest). The importance as constituents of the vegetation of Leguminosae and Myrtaceae appears to decrease, and of Rubiaceae to increase with disturbance. Leaf form and size do not show a constant difference between disturbed and natural forest. Other examples of secondary forest in Trinidad are discussed in more general terms and its variable nature emphasized. There is indication of a fundamental difference in structure between secondary forest after cultivation and that after clearing alone. Secondary forest in Trinidad is briefly compared with that elsewhere in the West Indies.

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