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    Author(s): Jessica Fonseca da Silva
    Date: 2015
    Source: Ecology and Evolution
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: International Institute of Tropical Forestry
    PDF: Download Publication  (848.0 KB)


    Novel forests (NFs)—forests that contain a combination of introduced and native species—are a consequence of intense anthropogenic disturbances and the natural resilience of disturbed ecosystems. The extent to which NFs have similar forest function as comparable native secondary forests is a matter of debate in the scientific community. Little is known about the performance of individual species in those forests. This study focuses on the functional attributes of Castilla elastica NFs in Puerto Rico and on the differences between introduced and native species growing side by side in these forests. Rates of processes measured here were later compared with data from literature about NSFs. I hypothesize that juvenile plants of C. elastica in NFs have higher survival rate than those of native species and that C. elastica trees have faster biomass fluxes than native trees. To test the hypotheses, I measured survival rates of juvenile plants and tree growth and characterized the aboveground litter fluxes and storage. Although juvenile plants of native species displayed higher survival rates than those of C. elastica (53% vs. 28%), the latter was dominant in the understory (96%). Stand biomass growth rate was 2.0  0.4 (average  one standard deviation) Mgha 1year 1 for the whole forest, and Guarea guidonia, a native species, exhibited the highest tree growth. Total litter fall was 9.6  0.5 Mgha 1year 1, and mean litter standing stock was 4.4  0.1 Mgha 1. Castilla elastica litter fall decomposed twice as fast as that of native species (5.8  1.1 vs. 3.03  1 kyear 1). Literature comparisons show that the present NFs differ in some rates of processes from NSFs. This study brings unique and detailed supporting data about the ecological dynamics under mature novel forest stands. Further comprehensive studies about NFs are important to strengthen the body of knowledge about the wide range of variation of emerging tropical ecosystems. Due to the large increase in the area covered by NFs, greater attention is needed to understand their functioning, delivery of ecological services and management requirements.

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Fonseca da Silva, Jessica. 2015. Dynamics of novel forests of Castilla elastica in Puerto Rico: from species to ecosystems . Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 5(16): 13 pages.: 3299-3311.


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    Biomass increment, introduced species, litter, dynamics, survival rate, tree growth

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