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Leaf Litter Disappearance Rates in Puerto Rican Montane Rain Forest

Fred La Caro and Robert L. Rudd
Biotropica
Vol. 17, No. 4 (Dec., 1985), pp. 269-276
DOI: 10.2307/2388589
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2388589
Page Count: 8
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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.
Leaf Litter Disappearance Rates in Puerto Rican Montane Rain Forest
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Abstract

The time course of leaf litter disappearance of six rain forest tree species was monitored for 32 weeks at the El Verde lower montane rain forest study site in northeastern Puerto Rico. Dacryodes excelsa, Sloanea berteriana, and Drypetes glauca were chosen to represent primary climax species, while Cecropia peltata, Inga vera, and Ixora ferrea were selected to represent secondary successional species in this forest. The study was designed to elucidate differences in nutrient release associated with the successional position of different tree species to determine what properties of leaf structure influenced the observed rates of nutrient disappearance. The string, nonconfined, tethered leaf method was employed. Dry weights and concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium were determined over a period of 32 weeks. The secondary canopy species exhibited slower decay rates than did the primary species. The same pattern emerged between the secondary and primary understory species. The interacting effects of the leaf structural characteristics such as percentage lignin and percentage fiber correlated most strongly with observed decay rates. Nutrients were considered important in establishing organic matter resource quality but did not appear to influence decay rates; instead, nutrient dynamics reflected intervals of element immobilization, mineralization, and importation. Secondary species exhibiting specific combinations of structural properties may act to conserve nutrients by their slower rates of leaf litter disappearance.

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