Leaf morphology scales multi-annual trends in nutrient cycling and leaf, flower, and fruiting phenology among species in the sub-tropical hardwood forests of the northern Florida Keys

Jed R Redwine, Florida International University

Abstract

The subtropical hardwood forests of southern Florida are formed by 120 frost-sensitive, broadleaved angiosperm species that range throughout the Caribbean. Previous work on a series of small sized forest component patches of a 20 km2, forest preserve in northern Key Largo indicate that a shift in species composition was associated with a 100 year forest developmental sequence, and this shift was associated with an increasingly evergreen canopy. This document investigates the underlying differences of the biology of trees that live in this habitat, and is specifically focused on the impact of leaf morphology on changing nutrient cycling patterns. Measurements of the area, thickness, dry mass, nutrient content and longevity of several leaves from 3-4 individuals of ten species were conducted in combination with a two-year leaf litter collection and nutrient analysis to determine that species with thicker, denser leaves cycled scarce nutrients up to 2-3 times more efficiently than thin leaved tree species, and the leaf thickness/density index predicts role in forest development in a parallel direction as the index predicts nutrient cycling efficiency. A three year set of observations on the relative abundance of new leaves, flowers and fruits of the same tree species provides an opportunity to evaluate the consequences the leaf morphology/nutrient cycling/forest development relationship to forest habitat quality. Results of the three documents support a mechanistic link between forest development and nutrient cycling, and suggests that older forests are likely to be better habitats based on the availability of valuable forest products like new leaves, flowers, and fruits throughout the year. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Botany|Biology, Ecology

Recommended Citation

Jed R Redwine, "Leaf morphology scales multi-annual trends in nutrient cycling and leaf, flower, and fruiting phenology among species in the sub-tropical hardwood forests of the northern Florida Keys" (January 1, 2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3279233.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3279233

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