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Topography on the LFDP has northwest-running drainages producing steep northeast and southwest-facing slopes, with an elevation across the plot which ranges from 333 to 428 m asl. The mean slope of the plot is 17% but ranges from 3 to 60%.
Soils were formed in residual volcanic ash that fell in the ocean to form volcaniclastic sandstones and siltstones, which were subsequently uplifted (F. Scatena pers. comm. ). Soils are dominated by old, deeply weathered kaolinitic Oxisols (Zarzal) and Ultisols (Cristal), and young, less-developed Entisols (Coloso and Fluvaquents) and Inceptisols (Preito) in stream channels. Zarzal, Cristal and Prieto are deep clay soils, while Coloso and Fluvequents are formed from alluvium in the stream channels (Soil Survey Staff 1995).
The LFDP lies within the tabonuco forest that is named after a dominant tree, Dacryodes excelsa Vahl (Burseraceae). Tabonuco forest develops best on low, protected, well-drained ridges below 600 m a.s.l. Mean canopy height in tabonuco forest is about 20 m, with tallest trees to c. 35m. Few trees in the LFDP exceed 1 m DBH. The forest in Puerto Rico is subject to hurricane damage and canopy height is lower, and canopy structure is broken, in the years after hurricanes.