Landslides cause spatial and temporal gradients at multiple scales in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico

TitleLandslides cause spatial and temporal gradients at multiple scales in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsShiels, AB, Walker, LA
Book TitleEcological Bulletins 54: Ecological gradient analyses in a tropical landscape
Series TitleEcological Gradient Analyses in a Tropical Ecosystem
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Accession NumberLUQ.1084

Landslides represent one of the most severe disturbances in montane forests because the main consequence of theiroccurrence is loss or downslope redistribution of the majority of the above- and below-ground biomass. We examinedamong-landslide gradients (size, slope, aspect, age, elevation) on 142 landslides in the Luquillo Mountains, PuertoRico, created by three storms in 2003–2004. We also examined within-landslide gradients (top to bottom, edge tocenter, successional development) by reviewing 20 yr of landslide data in the Luquillo Mountains. Landslide abun-dance and plant successional patterns do not closely reflect the elevation gradient that is characteristic of this moun-tain range, unlike many abiotic and biotic factors that do. Numerous physical gradients resulting from landslides,including soil nutrients, slope, age, and distance to edges and the base of a landslide, strongly influence colonization,growth, and survival of vegetation in the Luquillo Mountains. However, some gradients appear more pronouncedthan others, and the influence of each gradient on landslide recovery likely depends on both biotic responses to thenet effects of multiple, overlapping interactions among gradients (e.g. soil slope and fertility) and the temporal andspatial scale at which attributes are measured. Therefore, even when the many gradients that influence plant coloniza-tion and landslide development are known, accurate predictions of species composition and time to forest recoveryremain challenging.