, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 1-18
Date: 04 Mar 2009

Changes in the Herbaceous Communities on the Landslide of the Casita Volcano, Nicaragua, during Early Succession

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Abstract

This study examined the main changes in the herbaceous communities during the first four years of succession in a large landslide on Casita Volcano, Nicaragua, located in a densely populated area that has a tropical dry climate. Our main objective was to determine the major pathways of change in community features, such as richness, biovolume, species composition, and abundances of plant traits and to verify if they varied between the different landslide areas based on abiotic heterogeneity and landscape context. Number, percent cover, mean height and traits of herbaceous species, and several abiotic factors related to fertility and geomorphological stability of substrates were sampled in 28 permanent plots. Environmental heterogeneity strongly influenced early successional changes in the herbaceous communities during the four years of the study. Biovolume increased in the unstable and infertile areas and decreased in the stable and fertile landslide areas. In most zones, species richness decreased significantly because of the expansion of a few dominant species that developed a large cover and excluded other species. Those dominant species were mainly responsible for changes in species composition and included annual forbs, e.g., Calopogonium mucunoides and Stizolobium pruriens, graminoids that have rhizomes or stolons, e.g., Hyparrhenia rufa, and perennial nitrogen-fixing forbs, e.g., Clitoria ternatea. They might be important in determining future successional patterns on the Casita Volcano landslide.

Plant nomenclature Stevens et al. (2001)