Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1254–1266 | Cite as

Environmental factors that affect primary plant succession trajectories on lahars (Popocatépetl Volcano, Mexico)

  • Arturo García-RomeroEmail author
  • Rocío Marisol Alanís-anaya
  • Julio Muñoz-Jiménez


The earliest stages of plant succession on severely disturbed sites usually follow highly unpredictable trajectories. However, in the Popocatépetl volcano area (50 km SE of Mexico City), the development of physiognomically distinct primary plant communities suggests the occurrence of various successional trajectories only 10 years after the onset of colonization of a temperate forest on lahars. To characterize plant communities and determine the environmental factors that drive the differences observed between plant communities and their successional trajectories, we monitored 64 circular sample plots (3.14 m2) from 2002 to 2011. We examined the plant communities’ composition and structure in terms of their species richness and abundance, plant cover, and maximum stem height, and recorded 13 environmental factors related to the volcanic deposit characteristics, microclimate, soil, flow dynamics and gravitational processes. A cluster analysis of the species abundance data showed that, by 2011, six plant community types (CT’s) had established, including grasslands, and open, dense and very dense shrub lands. As these communities developed over the same period of time and within the same overall ecosystem, then these plant community types were interpreted as different stages of the same successional trajectory. Two sequential main stages that drive regeneration were identified from this successional trajectory: a) the first four years are characterized by a steady increase in species richness and physiognomic development (plant size and coverage), mostly dominated by Baccharis conferta, Eupatorium glabratum and Senecio barbajohannis; b) from the sixth year onwards, a continued increase in the abundance of those same species led to the development of the dense shrubland communities. Differences in the availability of soil resources and disturbances linked to recent lahar flows were the main factors accounting for such differences.


Ecosystem regeneration Plant colonization Primary succession Temperate forest Light exposure Elevation Soil Slope aspect 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arturo García-Romero
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rocío Marisol Alanís-anaya
    • 2
  • Julio Muñoz-Jiménez
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Geografia Física, Instituto de GeografiaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico, Distrito FederalMexico
  2. 2.Laboratorio de Análisis Geoespacial, Instituto de GeografíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico, Distrito FederalMexico
  3. 3.Departamento de A.G.R. y Geografia Física, Facultad de Geografía e HistoriaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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