Research on tropical dry forest (TDF) succession i0s needed for effective conservation and management of this threatened and understudied ecosystem. We used a highly replicated chronosequence within a 37,242-ha TDF landscape to investigate successional patterns by plant size class and to evaluate the influence of stand age, topographic position, soil properties and spatial autocorrelation on forest structure and composition. We used a SPOT5 satellite image to obtain a land-cover thematic map, and sampled woody vegetation (adults: >5 cm diam; saplings: 1–5 cm) and soil properties in 168 plots distributed among four vegetation classes: VC1 (3–8-yr-old forest), VC2 (9–15-yr-old forest), VC3 (>15-yr-old forest on flat areas), VC4 (>15-yr-old forest on hills). Stem density decreased with stand age and was lowest in VC3, while height, basal area and species density increased with age and were higher in older than in younger forests. Topographic position also influenced forest structure and composition. Basal area and height were largely determined by stand age, whereas stem and species density, and composition were influenced mostly by soil variables associated with fertility, and by spatial autocorrelation. Adults and saplings showed contrasting patterns and correlates of community structure, but similar patterns and correlates of composition, possibly due to the prevalence of coppicing. Our results show that our sampling approach can overcome several limitations of chronosequence studies, and provide insights in the patterns and drivers of succession, as well as guidelines for forest management and conservation.
Abstract in Spanish is available at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/loi/btp.