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Abstract Detail

Pteridological Section/AFS


Hindsight is 20/20:  Highlights from a 20-year ecological study of 20 fern species in the Luquillo rainforest of Puerto Rico.

After a three-year study of a rainforest floor fern species in Costa Rica ending in 1988 had shown me that tropical ferns can exhibit pronounced seasonal growth patterns, I was determined to begin a longer more comprehensive fern research program.  In 1991 my proposal to study fern ecology at the new NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research site (LTER) that had been established in 1988 in the Luquillo mountains of Puerto Rico was accepted.  I proposed to monitor growth and demography of approximately 20 understory ferns in the forest over a 20-year period.  For the first 10 years I would record and measure every leaf produced by individual ferns at 4-month intervals in order to describe seasonal patterns in growth and spore production.  For the final 10 years I would do the same at yearly intervals and thus have a twenty-year record of temporal variation in growth rates and morphological parameters.  The Luquillo LTER researchers had already learned that their site was hurricane-prone having experienced the very severe Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and had rapidly shifted their focus to the effects and implications of such a disturbance regime on ecosystems.  And in 1998, the eighth year of my fern study, another severe hurricane (Georges) devastated the site.  The observations and experiments from this sometimes tumultuous long term fern study are providing new and surprising insights into the many different growth strategies of tropical fern species and their resilience in the face of disturbance.   

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long term studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 7
Location: Pines North/Boise Centre
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2014
Time: 8:30 AM
Number: 7001
Abstract ID:244
Candidate for Awards:Edgar T. Wherry award

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