, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 119–153

Altitudinal zonation of montane Quercus forests along two transects in Chirripó National Park, Costa Rica

  • Maarten Kappelle
  • Jan-Gerrit Van Uffelen
  • Antoine M. Cleef

DOI: 10.1007/BF00045594

Cite this article as:
Kappelle, M., Van Uffelen, J. & Cleef, A.M. Vegetatio (1995) 119: 119. doi:10.1007/BF00045594


Abiotic and vegetation data were collected along two altitudinal transects through mature montane Quercus forests on the Pacific and Atlantic slopes of Costa Rica's Chirripó Massif. Between 2000 and 3200 m asl twenty-four 0.05 ha forest plots were selected at altitudinal intervals of 100 m, and eight soil profiles were described at intervals of 200 m. A TWINSPAN classification aided in the determination of eight zonal forest communities on the basis of their floristic composition. They are grouped in two sets of four: (i) the palm-rich lauraceous-fagaceous Lower Montane Mollinedia-Quercus Forests (2000–2600 m asl) and (ii) the bamboo-rich myrsinaceous-fagaceous Upper Montane Schefflera-Quercus Forests (2500–3200 m asl), respectively. Vegetation changes seem correlated with two major climatic gradients: (i) a temperature gradient (altitude), and (ii) a moisture gradient (wet Atlantic vs. moist Pacific slope). Most soils are Andepts, and residual, colluvial or derived from volcanic material. Humus layers are thicker on the wetter Atlantic slope. A total of 431 vascular plant species consisted of 86 pteridophytes, 1 gymnosperm, 296 dicots and 48 monocots. Species richness, canopy height and stem diameter decrease with increasing altitude, while the canopy surface becomes more flattend. A comparison with other studies shows that Chirripó's montane Quercus forests fit within the environmental ranges known from altitudinal zonations elsewhere in the Tropics.

Key words

Altitudinal gradientCloud forestEdaphic zoneNeotropical montane forestOak forestTalamanca



above sea level


diameter at breast height


Lower Montane




two way indicator species analysis


Upper Montane


code referring to soil profiles as presented in Van Uffelen (1991)

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maarten Kappelle
    • 1
  • Jan-Gerrit Van Uffelen
    • 3
  • Antoine M. Cleef
    • 2
  1. 1.Escuela de Ciencias AmbientalesUniversidad NacionalHerediaCosta Rica
  2. 2.Hugo de Vries Laboratory, Dept. of Systematics, Evolution and PalaeobiologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Dept. of Soil Science and GeologyWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands