, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 55-80

Structure and floristic composition of the lowland rain forest of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico

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Abstract

Physiognomy, structure and floristic composition of one hectare of lowland tropical rain forest was studied in detail at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Physiognomically, the Los Tuxtlas forest should be classified as ‘lowland tropical high evergreen rain forest’. The forest showed a closed canopy at 30–35 m. Of all woody, non-climbing species with a DBH≥1.0 cm 89.4% (94.5% of all individuals) were evergreen, 25.4% (59.5% of the individuals) had compound leaves, and over 80% of species (and individuals) had leaves in the notophyll and mesophyll size classes. The forest structure was characterized by a low density (2976 individuals with a DBH≥1.0 cm, 346 individuals with a DBH≥10.0 cm, per ha, excluding vines) with an average basal area (38.1 m2, DBH≥1.0 cm, 34.9 m2, DBH≥10.0 cm, per ha, excluding vines). This was attributed to the relative maturity of the forest on the study plot. The study plot contained 234 species (11 208 individuals with a height ≥0.5 m), of which 55.1% (34.8% of individuals) were trees, 9.4% (6.8%) shrubs, 3.4% (44.3%) palms, 20.1% (5.2%) vines, 6.8% (8.7%) herbs and 5.1% (0.3%) of unknown lifeform. Furthermore, 58 species of epiphytes and hemi-epiphytes were found. Diversity of trees, shrubs and palms with a DBH≥1.0 cm was calculated as Shannon-Wiener index (4.65), Equitability index (0.65), and Simpson index (0.10). The dominance-diversity curve showed a lognormal form, characteristic for tropical rain forest. The community structure was characterized by a relative dominance of Astrocaryum mexicanum in the understorey, Pseudolmedia oxyphyllaria in the middle storeys, and Nectandra ambigens in the canopy. Species population structures of 31 species showed three characteristic patterns, differentiated by recruitment: continuously high, discontinuously high, and continuously low recruitment. Height/diameter and crown cover/diameter diagrams suggested a very gradual shift from height growth to crown growth during tree development. Forest turnover was calculated as 138 years. Compared to other tropical rain forests the Los Tuxtlas forest had 1. similar leaf physiognomical characteristics, 2. a lower diversity, 3. a lower density, 4. an average basal area, and 5. a slow canopy turnover.