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Forest and Community Structure of Tropical Sub-Montane Rain Forests on the Island of Dominica, Lesser Antilles

Saara J. DeWalt1,*, Kalan Ickes1, and Arlington James2

1Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA 29634. 2Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks Division, Roseau, Dominica (retired). *Corresponding author.

Caribbean Naturalist, Special Issue No. 1 (2016)

To examine short- and long-term changes in hurricane-prone sub-montane rain forests on Dominica in the Lesser Antilles of the eastern Caribbean, we established 17 permanent, 0.25-ha vegetation plots clustered in 3 regions of the island—northeast, northwest, and southwest. We counted all trees ≥10 cm diameter almost 30 years after Hurricane David caused substantial tree mortality, primarily in the southern half of the island. We identified 1 vegetation association (Dacryodes–Sloanea) with 2 variants depending on whether Amanoa caribaea was co-dominant. We found that differences in forest structure and species diversity were explained more by region than forest type, with plots in the southwest generally having higher stem density, lower tree height, and greater species diversity than plots in the northeast or northwest. Our results suggest that differences in forest composition in the sub-montane rain forests of Dominica are largely attributable to the presence or absence of the near-endemic canopy-tree species A. caribaea, and secondarily to the degree of hurricane-caused disturbance.

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