Soil Effects on Forest Structure and Diversity in a Moist and a Dry Tropical Forest



Soil characteristics are important drivers of variation in wet tropical forest structure and diversity, but few studies have evaluated these relationships in drier forest types. Using tree and soil data from 48 and 32 1 ha plots, respectively, in a Bolivian moist and dry forest, we asked how soil conditions affect forest structure and diversity within each of the two forest types. After correcting for spatial effects, soil-vegetation relationships differed between the dry and the moist forest, being strongest in the dry forest. Furthermore, we hypothesized that soil nutrients would play a more important role in the moist forest than in the dry forest because vegetation in the moist forest is less constrained by water availability and thus can show its full potential response to soil fertility. However, contrary to our expectations, we found that soil fertility explained a larger number of forest variables in the dry forest (50 percent) than in the moist forest (17 percent). Shannon diversity declined with soil fertility at both sites, probably because the most dominant, shade-tolerant species strongly increased in abundance as soil fertility increased.