Conceptual Overview Disturbance, Gradients, and Ecological Response

TitleConceptual Overview Disturbance, Gradients, and Ecological Response
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWaide, RB, Willig, MR
EditorN. V. L. Brokaw, Crowl, AT, Lugo, AE, William H. McDowell, Scantena, FN, Waide, RB, Willig, MR
Book TitleA Caribbean Forest Tapestry: The Multidimensional Nature of Disturbance and Response
PublisherUniversity Press
Accession NumberLUQ.1072

Key Points • The abundance and distribution of organisms and the attendant ecosystem processes vary across the landscape of the Luquillo Mountains in relation to underlying patterns of spatial heterogeneity and gradients of environmental factors. • The ecosystems of the Luquillo Mountains are affected by frequent climate- induced disturbances such as treefalls, landslides, tropical storms, and droughts, as well as by human-induced disturbances associated with land use (i.e., agriculture and forest harvest). • The term “ecological space” refers to multivariate dimensions defined by a suite of environmental characteristics. Disturbances can disrupt or create gradients by altering the mapping of ecological characteristics onto geo- graphic space. • Because the relationship between geographic space and ecological space is dynamic, the relationship between the physical template and the distribution and abundance of animal, plant, and microbial species cannot be understood without reference to the disturbance regime. • The resilience of an ecosystem to anthropogenic disturbances might be low because such disturbances often produce severe modifications to the environ- ment, creating novel combinations of environmental characteristics that are outside of the ecological space that was characteristic of the site or which are characterized by the absence of biological residuals.