Table of Contents
ISRN Ecology
Volume 2013, Article ID 414357, 10 pages
Research Article

Forest Structure, Nutrients, and Pentaclethra macroloba Growth after Deforestation of Costa Rican Lowland Forests

School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Kean University, Union, NJ 07083, USA

Received 6 March 2013; Accepted 26 March 2013

Academic Editors: S. Liu and D. Pimentel

Copyright © 2013 Daniela J. Shebitz and William Eaton. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Succession following deforestation in Neotropical forests has been investigated extensively, yet rarely have studies connected nutrient dynamics with vegetation. This study was conducted in lowland wet forests of Maquenque, Costa Rica. The objectives were (1) to compare carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) characteristics and understory vegetation diversity between regenerating forests and primary forests; and (2) to use these variables to evaluate P. macroloba’s successional role. Four 300 m2 plots were established in primary and secondary forests where P. macroloba was the dominant N-fixing tree. Soil and vegetation data were collected from 2008 to 2010. Values of indicators of C, N, and P cycle activity were generally greater in primary than in secondary forest soils. Efficiency of organic C use and the relative contribution of respiration and organic C to soil biomass were also greater in the primary forest. These trends corresponded with greater richness, biomass, and cover of total and leguminous plant species, greater volume of P. macroloba in primary stands, and greater density of P. macroloba in secondary stands. As cleared regions of former primary forest regenerate, P. macroloba is the important dominant N-fixing tree and a critical driver of C, N, and P recuperation and ecosystem recovery.