Vegetation patterns and environmental gradients in tropical dry forests of the northern Yucatan Peninsula

Authors


  • Nomenclature: White & Darwin (1995) and the floras and monographs used therein.

Corresponding author; Fax +15048652920; E-mail dawhite@loyno.edu

Abstract

Patterns of plant species composition and their relationships to soil and topographic variables were investigated in tropical dry forests across the north central Yucatan, Mexico. Seven sites were studied in the oldest accessible forests along a 200–km transect oriented northwest to southeast; an eighth site was located in a little-disturbed area located 75 km northeast of the transect. Two of the sites were on Mayan ruins. All sites were sampled using 9–24, 10m × 20m plots (<n= 132) for woody stems geqslant R: gt-or-equal, slanted 3.0 cm diameter breast height. The important natural forest species were Bursera simaruba, Caesalpinia gaumeri, Gymnopodium floribundum, Piscidia piscipula, and Thouinia paucidentata. The two most important woody species in ruin woodlands were Brosimum alicastrum and Croton lundellii. Forest plots (n=108) had 17 species on average, ruin plots (n= 24) nine species. Mean basal area of stems at the forest plots (20.7 m2.ha-1) was lower than in ruin plots (28.4 m2.ha-1). Detrended Correspondence Analysis generally placed plots by site along the geographic transect. Natural forest plots and sites were separated from the plots on ruin sites. The five soil and topographic variables (slope, soil depth, percent surface rock, soil pH, total soil organic matter) differed significantly among sites. Plot values were correlated with DCA axe scores. Intersite floristic variation reflects an overall west to east environmental gradient affected by climate.

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