Summary 1 Are more diverse ecosystems more or less resistant to disturbance? Does diversity increase in a forest after being hit by a hurricane? We answer these questions using a 30‐year study of four Jamaican forests, which differ in soil fertility and diversity, and which were hit by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988; the decades were: pre‐Gilbert (1974–84), Gilbert (1984–94), and post‐Gilbert (1994–2004). 2 Diversity (Shannon index) was always higher in the three forests (Col H′ 3.00, Mull H′ 2.91 and Slope H′ 2.99) on more fertile soils (C : N ratios 10–13, N : P 16–24), and significantly lower in the Mor forest (H′ 2.26) with the least fertile soil (C : N ratio 24, N : P ratio 44). Diversity increased during the Gilbert decade in two of the more diverse forests (Mull and Slope), it did not increase in the least diverse, Mor forest. The overall increase in diversity during the Gilbert decade was due to the recruitment of eight, mostly light‐demanding, species and the increased abundance of uncommon species. 3 We used turnover rates (the average of mortality and recruitment of stems) as a measure of resistance. We equate low turnover with high resistance to hurricane damage. Turnover increased during the Gilbert decade in all forests, but increased more in the three more diverse forests (Mull 1.5% year−1 1974–84 to 3.1% year−1 1984–94; Slope 1.3–2.6; Col 1.5–3.2); than in the least diverse Mor forest (1.2–1.9). 4 Stem diameter growth rates pre‐Gilbert were very low in all forests and were lowest in the Mor forest (Mor 0.3 mm year−1, Mull 0.4, Slope 0.5, Col 0.6). They increased during the Gilbert decade and remained, in the post‐Gilbert decade, double those of the pre‐Gilbert decade (Mor 0.6 mm year−1, Mull 0.6, Slope 0.8, Col 1.1). Smaller stems increased growth more than larger stems. The stems recruited during the Gilbert and post‐Gilbert decades grew faster than those present in 1974. 5 Thus, in montane forest in Jamaica the least diverse forest was most resistant to hurricane damage, and although there was a strong similarity in species rank abundances over 30 years including a hurricane, the hurricane increased diversity.
Journal of Ecology – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 2006
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