Folia Geobotanica

, 44:1 | Cite as

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



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.


Biovolume Environmental heterogeneity Plant traits Richness Species composition 


  1. Aide TM, Zimmerman JK, Herrera L, Rosario M, Serrano M (1995) Forest recovery in abandoned tropical pastures in Puerto-Rico. Forest Ecol Managem 77:77–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakker JP, Olff H, Willems JH, Zobel M (1996) Why do we need permanent plots in the study of long-term vegetation dynamics? J Veg Sci 7:147–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benitez-Malvido J (2006) Effect of low vegetation on the recruitment of plants in successional habitat types. Biotropica 38:171–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonet A, Pausas JG (2004) Species richness and cover along a 60-year chronosequence in old-fields of southeastern Spain. Pl Ecol 174:257–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bush MB, Whittaker RJ (1995) Colonization and succession on Krakatu: an analysis of the guild of vining plants. Biotropica 27:355–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. CEPAL (1999) Nicaragua, evaluación de los daños ocasionados por el huracán Mitch, 1998. Implicaciones para el desarrollo económico y social y el medio ambiente. Naciones Unidas, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), México DFGoogle Scholar
  7. Chapman CA, Chapman LJ (1999) Forest restoration in abandoned agricultural land: a case study from East Africa. Conservation Biol 13:1301–1311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chinea JD (1999) Changes in the herbaceous and vine communities at the Bisley Experimental Watersheds, Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Hugo. Canad J Forest Res 29:1433–1437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Corrales-Rodríguez D (1983) Impacto ecológico sobre los recursos naturales renovables de Centroamérica. Instituto de los Recursos Naturales y del Ambiente (IRENA), ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  10. Dalling JW, Denslow JS (1998) Soil seed bank composition along a forest chronosequence in seasonally moist tropical forest, Panama. J Veg Sci 9:669–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass-fire cycle and global change. Annual Rev Ecol Syst 23:674–689Google Scholar
  12. Daubenmire R (1972) Ecology of Hyparrhenia-rufa (Nees) in derived savanna in northwestern Costa-Rica. J Appl Ecol 9:11–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Souza FM, Batista JLF (2004) Restoration of seasonal semideciduous forests in Brazil: influence of age and restoration design on forest structure. Forest Ecol Managem 191:185–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frelich LE, Machado JL, Reich PB (2003) Fine scale environmental variation and structure of understory plant communities in two old-growth pine forests. J Ecol 91:283–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gillespie TW, Grijalva A, Farris CN (2000) Diversity, composition and structure of tropical dry forests in Central America. Pl Ecol 147:37–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gómez-Sal A, de Miguel JM, Casado MA, Pineda FD (1986) Successional changes in the morphology and ecological responses of a grazed pasture ecosystem in Central Spain. Vegetatio 67:33–44Google Scholar
  17. Grace JB (1999) The factors controlling species density in herbaceous plant communities: an assessment. Perspect Pl Ecol Evol Syst 2:1–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guariguata MR (1990) Landslide disturbance and forest regeneration in the upper Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. J Ecol 78:814–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holl KD, Loik ME, Lin EHV, Samuels IA (2000) Tropical montane forest restoration in Costa Rica: Overcoming barriers to dispersal and establishment. Restoration Ecol 8:339–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huynh H, Feldt LS (1976) Estimation of the Box correction for degrees of freedom from sample data in the randomized block and split-plot designs. J Educ Statist 1:69–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Janzen DH (1988) Tropical dry forests, the most endangered major tropical ecosystem. In Wilson EO (ed) Biodiversity. National Academy Press, Washington DC, pp 130–137Google Scholar
  22. Jirón FA, Sánchez-Ríos MR (2003) Caracterización de suelos y oferta de semillas en diferentes sectores del deslave del Volcán Casita. Thesis de Maestría, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua – León, LeónGoogle Scholar
  23. Kent M, Coker P (1992) Vegetation description and analysis: a practical approach. Belhaven, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Kerle N, de Vries BV, Oppenheimer C (2003) New insight into the factors leading to the 1998 flank collapse and lahar disaster at Casita volcano, Nicaragua. Bull Volcanology 65:331–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klinka K, Krajina VJ, Ceska A, Scagel AM (1989) Indicator plants of coastal British Columbia. University of British Columbia Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  26. Leishman MR, Westoby M (1992) Classifying plants into groups on the basis of associations of individual traits- evidence from Australian semi-arid woodlands. J Ecol 80:417–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lundgren L (1978) Studies of soil and vegetation development on fresh landslide scars in the Mgeta Valley, Western Uluruga Mountains, Tanzania. Geogr Ann 60:91–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Martin Y, Rood K, Schwab JW, Church M (2002) Sediment transfer by shallow landsliding in the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Canad J Earth Sci 39:189–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marquínez JM, Dévoli G, Menendes-Duarte R (2002) Deslave del Volcán Casita (Nicaragua). In Ayala-Carcedo FJ, Olcina J (eds) Riesgos naturales. Ariel Ciencia, Barcelona, pp 307–312Google Scholar
  30. McIntyre S, Lavorel S, Tremont RM (1995) Plant life-history attributes – their relationship to disturbance responses in herbaceous vegetation. J Ecol 83:31–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mistry J, Berardi A (2005) Assessing fire potential in a Brazilian savanna nature reserve. Biotropica 37:439–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Montalvo J, Casado MA, Levassor C, Pineda FD (1991) Adaptation of ecological systems: compositional patterns of species and morphological and functional traits. J Veg Sci 2:655–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Myster RW, Fernández DS (1995) Spatial gradients and patch structure on two Puerto Rican landslides. Biotropica 27:149–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Myster RW, Walker LR (1997) Plant successional pathways on Puerto Rican landslides. J Trop Ecol 13:165–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nakashizuka T, Lida S, Suzuki W, Tanimoto T (1993) Seed dispersal and vegetation development on a debris avalanche on the Ontake Volcano, Central Japan. J Veg Sci 4:537–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Olander LP, Scatena FN, Silver WL (1998) Impacts of disturbance initiated by road construction in a subtropical cloud forest in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Forest Ecol Managem 109:33–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Orshan G (1982) Monocharacter growth from types as a tool in an analytic-synthetic study of growth forms in mediterranean type ecosystems. A proposal for an inter-regional program. Ecología Mediterránea 8:159–171Google Scholar
  38. Pausas JG, Austin MP (2001) Patterns of species richness in relation to different environments: an appraisal. J Veg Sci 12:153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pickett STA, White TS (1985) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  40. Pielke RA, Rubiera J, Landsea C, Fernández ML, Klein R (2003) Hurricane vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean: Normalized damage and loss potentials. Nat Hazards Rev 4:101–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pineda FD, Casado MA, Peco B, Olmeda C, Levassor C (1987) Temporal changes in therophytic communities across the boundary of disturbed-intact ecosystems. Vegetatio 71:33–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Porta J, López-Acevedo M, Roquero C (1999) Edafología para la agricultura y el medio ambiente. Ediciones Mundi-Prensa, MadridGoogle Scholar
  43. Restrepo C, Vitousek P (2001) Landslides, alien species and the diversity of a Hawaiian montane mesic ecosystem. Biotropica 33:409–420Google Scholar
  44. Rivera LW, Zimmerman JK, Aide TM (2000) Forest recovery in abandoned agricultural lands in a karst region of the Dominican Republic. Pl Ecol 148:115–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roberts MR (2004) Response of the herbaceous layer to natural disturbance in North American forests. Canad J Bot 82:1273–1283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Roberts MR, Zhu LX (2002) Early response of the herbaceous layer to harvesting in a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest in New Brunswick, Canada. Forest Ecol Managem 155:17–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rodríguez MA, Borges PAV, Gómez-Sal A (1997) Species and life-forms composition of Mediterranean mountain pastures in two years of contrasting precipitation. Flora 192:231–240Google Scholar
  48. Ruiz-Jaen MC, Aide TM (2005) Vegetation structure, species diversity, and ecosystem processes as measures of restoration success. Forest Ecol Managem 218:159–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Salas-Estrada JB (1999) Biodiversidad en Nicaragua, un estudio de país. Ministerio de los Recursos Naturales y del Ambiente (MARENA) – Ministerio Agropecuario y Forestal (MAGFOR), ManaguaGoogle Scholar
  50. Sarmiento FO (1997) Arrested succession in pastures hinders regeneration of Tropandean forests and shreds mountain landscapes. Environm Conservation 24:14–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Scott KM, Vallance JW, Kerle N, Macías JL, Strauch W, Devoli G (2005) Catastrophic precipitation-triggered lahar at Casita volcano, Nicaragua: occurrence, bulking and transformation. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 30:59–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sheridan MF (1998) Report on the October 30, 1998 avalanche and breakout flow of Casita Volcano, Nicaragua, triggered by hurricane Mitch. United States Geological Survey (USGS)Google Scholar
  53. Silvertown J, Dodd ME, McConway K, Potts J, Crawley M (1994) Rainfall, biomass variation and community composition in the Park Grass Experiment. Ecology 75:2430–2437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Slocum MG (2000) Logs and fern patches as recruitment sites in a tropical pasture. Restoration Ecol 8:408–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Slocum MG, Aide TM, Zimmerman JK, Navarro L (2006) A strategy for restoration of montane forest in anthropogenic fern thickets in the Dominican Republic. Restoration Ecol 14:526–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Small CJ, McCarthy BC (2003) Spatial and temporal variability of herbaceous vegetation in an eastern deciduous forest. Pl Ecol 164:37–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Biometry. W.H. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  58. StatSoft (2001) STATISTICA. Data analysis software system 6. Tulsa, OklahomaGoogle Scholar
  59. Stevens WD, Ulloa-Ulloa C, Pool A, Montiel OM (2001) Flora de Nicaragua. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. LouisGoogle Scholar
  60. ter Braak CJF, Šmilauer P (2002) CANOCO Reference manual and CanoDraw for windows user’s guide: Software for Canonical Community Ordination (version 4.5). Microcomputer Power, Ithaca NYGoogle Scholar
  61. Tsuyuzaki S (1989) Analysis of revegetation dynamics on the volcano Usu, northern Japan, deforested by 1977–1978 eruptions. Amer J Bot 76:1468–1477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tsuyuzaki S, del Moral R (1995) Species attributes in early primary succession on volcanoes. J Veg Sci 6:517–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tsuyuzaki S, Hase A (2005) Plant community dynamics on the Volcano Mount Koma, northern Japan, after the 1996 eruption. Folia Geobot 40:319–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. UNDP (2005) Human development report 2005. United Nations Development Program (UNDP), New YorkGoogle Scholar
  65. Velázquez E, Gómez-Sal A (2007) Environmental control of early succession on a large landslide in a tropical dry ecosystem (Casita Volcano, Nicaragua). Biotropica 39:601–609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Velázquez E, Gómez-Sal A (2008) Landslide early succession in a neotropical dry forest. Pl Ecol 199:295–308Google Scholar
  67. von Ende CN (2001) Repeated-measures analysis, growth and other time-dependent measures. In Scheiner SM, Gurevitch J (eds) Design and analysis of ecological experiments. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 134–157Google Scholar
  68. Walker LR (1994) Effects of fern thickets on woodland development on landslides in Puerto Rico. J Veg Sci 5:525–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walker LR, Willig MR (1999) An introduction to terrestrial disturbances. In Walker LR (ed) Ecosystems of disturbed ground. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 1–16Google Scholar
  70. Walker LR, Zarin DJ, Fetcher N, Myster RW, Johnson AH (1996) Ecosystem development and plant succession on landslides in the Caribbean. Biotropica 28:566–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Whittaker RJ, Bush MB, Richards K (1989) Plant recolonization and vegetation succession on the Krakatu Islands, Indonesia. Ecol Monogr 59:59–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zhou ZH, Miwa M, Nara K, Wu B, Nakaya H, Lian C, Miyashita N, Oishi R, Maruta E, Hogetsu T (2003) Patch establishment and development of a clonal plant, Polygonum cuspidatum, on Mount Fuji. Molec Ecol 12:1361–1373CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad de Alcalá de HenaresMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations