Using gradient analysis to simulate the spatial structure and function of the Luquillo Experimental Forest

TitleUsing gradient analysis to simulate the spatial structure and function of the Luquillo Experimental Forest
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsLash-Marshall, WG, Hall, CAS, Wu, W
JournalEcological Bulletins
Volume54
Pagination223–232
Accession NumberLUQ.1108
Abstract

A transition to a gradient-based systems approach to scientific research in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) has yielded a new ability to understand the patterns of variability in abiotic conditions and the resultant structure and function of the LEF ecosystems. The location and topography of the Luquillo Mountains result in strong elevational gradients of temperature, soil moisture, microtopography, solar radiation and other physical characterizations. These gradients offer an exceptional opportunity to understand the response of species to environmental conditions across spatial and temporal scales through the use of spatial simulation models. We know now that the four forest type classification does not capture the biotic reality of the gradual transitions of vegetation and environmental gradients with elevation. We review the evolution of the increasing use of gradients in research in the LEF, and provide evidence that ecosystem structure and function are responding to gradients in environmental conditions based on a series of empirical studies and spatial simulation models of structure and function. Based on these studies, we believe that the gradients perspective is an appropriate conceptual framework for investigating the biota of this ecosystem and provides a strong basis for understanding their relation with the physical environment of the LEF over the long term.