Convergent structural responses of tropical forests to diverse disturbance regimes

James R. Kellner, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

80 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Size frequency distributions of canopy gaps are a hallmark of forest dynamics. But it remains unknown whether legacies of forest disturbance are influencing vertical size structure of landscapes, or space-filling in the canopy volume. We used data from LiDAR remote sensing to quantify distributions of canopy height and sizes of 434 501 canopy gaps in five tropical rain forest landscapes in Costa Rica and Hawaii. The sites represented a wide range of variation in structure and natural disturbance history, from canopy gap dynamics in lowland Costa Rica and Hawaii, to stages and types of stand-level dieback on upland Mauna Kea and Kohala volcanoes. Large differences in vertical canopy structure characterized these five tropical rain forest landscapes, some of which were related to known disturbance events. Although there were quantitative differences in the values of scaling exponents within and among sites, size frequency distributions of canopy gaps followed power laws at all sites and in all canopy height classes. Scaling relationships in gap size at different heights in the canopy were qualitatively similar at all sites, revealing a remarkable similarity despite clearly defined differences in species composition and modes of prevailing disturbance. These findings indicate that power-law gap-size frequency distributions are ubiquitous features of these five tropical rain forest landscapes, and suggest that mechanisms of forest disturbance may be secondary to other processes in determining vertical and horizontal size structure in canopies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-897
Number of pages11
JournalEcology letters
Volume12
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

structural response
canopy gaps
tropical forests
tropical forest
canopy gap
tropical rain forests
canopy
disturbance
forest canopy
Hawaii
Costa Rica
size structure
volcanoes
power law
dieback
gap dynamics
remote sensing
lowlands
highlands
forest dynamics

Keywords

  • Costa Rica
  • Dynamics
  • Hawaii
  • LiDAR
  • Power law
  • Rain forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Convergent structural responses of tropical forests to diverse disturbance regimes. / Kellner, James R.; Asner, Gregory P.

In: Ecology letters, Vol. 12, No. 9, 01.09.2009, p. 887-897.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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