Assessing tree species assemblages in highly disturbed Puerto Rican karst landscapes using forest inventory data.
Tree species assemblages described by landscape-scale forest inventory data both agreed and differed from those described by intensive, site specific studies in Puerto Rico’s highly disturbed northern karst belt. Species assemblages found on hill tops (typified by Tabebuia heterophylla or Bursera simaruba with Coccoloba diversifolia, Licaria parvifolia, and Drypetes alba), abandoned coffee shade (Guarea guidonia, Dendropanax arboreus, Inga vera, and Persea americana), early successional forest (Tetrazygia elaeagnoides with Bucida bursera), and reverting pasture (Spathodea campanulata and Casearia guianensis) fit well with previously described forest types. However, systematic sampling captured more marginal forest and showed greater importance of introduced species that comprise/dominate the forest in these areas, particularly S. campanulata. Therefore some assemblages were found to be more mixed and less defined than those observed in small scale intensive studies. Because forest inventory sampling includes less defined forest types and areas that are on the margins of environmental gradients, forest inventory data were less able to show the relationships between detailed forest types and environmental gradients observed in other studies. However, at the landscape level, forest inventory data complements and expands on the findings from intensive studies resulting in a clearer, unbiased view of the region’s forests.