The legacy of disturbance on habitat associations of terrestrial snails in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

TitleThe legacy of disturbance on habitat associations of terrestrial snails in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsSecrest, MF
Secondary AuthorsWillig, MR, Peppers, LL
Start Page502
Accession NumberLUQ.599
KeywordsCaracolus, disturbance, Gaeotis, Habitat, habitat selection, hurricane, Nenia, Polydontes, snails

Despite recent studies of the effect of disturbance on the abundance and distribution of organisms, little research has focused on the legacy of infrequent and large scale disturbances, especially from the perspective of habitat associations of animals. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo caused considerable damage to the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico, with the degree of disturbance strongly affected by topogeographic considerations. We examined the abundance, distribution, and habitat associations of four different species of land snail (Caracolus caracolla, Nenia tridens, Gaeotis nigrolineata, Polydontes acutangula) in the tabonuco forest at two sites (El Verde and Bisley) which were differentially damaged the hurricane. Five years after the impact of Hurricane Hugo, significant differences between sites in density persisted for all snails except P. acutangula. Moreover, significant diffenrences in habitat characteristics (central tendency and dispersion) were detected between El Verde and Bisley based on univaritae and multivaritae analyses of a suite of 31 abiotic and biotic variables. Despite these differences, the basis of habitat association for each snail did not differ between sites. The factors that affected microspatial differences in snail density within sites accounted for differences in density between sites. Insight derived from research conducted in a single location (e.g. El Verde) adequately accounted for patterns of variation at another site (e.g Bisley), even though differences between sites in the extent and severity of damage were well-documented. We hypothesize that the absence of scale dependence with regard to habitat selection exists because the association among abiotic and biotic variables (characted correaltoin matrix) within site was not altered differentially by the hurricane or was recovered to a similar state as a consequence of a secondary succession.