Invertebrate communities in a tropical rain forest canopy in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Hugo


T. D. Schowalter, Entomology Department, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331–2907, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Canopy invertebrate responses to Hurricane Hugo, tree species, and recovery time were examined at the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Puerto Rico during 1991–92 and 1994–95. Six tree species representing early and late successional stages were examined in paired plots representing severe hurricane disturbance (most trees toppled) and light hurricane disturbance (all trees standing and most branches intact).

2. Hurricane disturbance affected invertebrate abundances significantly. Sap-suckers and molluscs were more abundant, and defoliators, detritivores, and emergent aquatic insects were less abundant in recovering tree-fall gaps than in intact forest during this 5-year period. These changes in functional organisation are consistent with comparable studies of arthropod responses to canopy removal during harvest in temperate forests.

3. Tree species also affected invertebrate abundances significantly, but invertebrate communities did not differ significantly between the three early successional and three later successional tree species.

4. Most taxa showed significant annual variation in abundances, but only two Homoptera species showed a significant linear decline in abundance through time, perhaps reflecting long-term trends during recovery.

5. Leaf area missing, an indicator of herbivore effect on canopy processes, showed significant seasonal and annual trends, as well as differences among tree species and hurricane treatments. Generally, leaf area missing peaked during the wet season each year, but reached its highest levels during an extended drought in 1994. Leaf area missing also tended to be higher on the more abundant tree species in each disturbance treatment.

6. Herbivore abundances and leaf area missing were not related to concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, or calcium in the foliage.

7. This study demonstrated that invertebrate community structure and herbivory are dynamic processes that reflect the influences of host species and variable environmental conditions.