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Research Articles

The variation of resource availability within canopy gaps and adjacent understories across elevational gradients of a Sri Lankan rainforest

Authors:

Sisira Ediriweera ,

Faculty of Science and Technology, Uva Wellassa University, Badulla., LK
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B.M.P. Singhakumara,

Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Gangodawila, Nugegoda., LK
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Mark S. Ashton

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA., US
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Abstract

Among factors that might help to explain coexistence of tree species is environmental heterogeneity created by physical and biological processes of the forest environment. The differences in resource availability across rainforest landscapes were investigated by measuring the abiotic resources of light, soil nutrients and soil water availability in relation to forest structure. This study was conducted in canopy gaps and adjacent understories across an elevational gradient from lowland mixed dipterocarp forest (100 m amsl) to submontane mixed dipterocarp forest (1200 m amsl) in southwest Sri Lanka. Middle elevation gap sites (300-700 m amsl) were sub divided into valley, midslope and ridge topographic positions. Eighteen canopy openings caused by tree falls were randomly selected across the elevation gradient. Plots were demarcated in gap centers and in adjacent understories and measurements were taken of forest structure (basal area, canopy height, tree canopy projection area), shade (light sensors- photosynthetic photon flux density or PPFD), and soil nutrients (pH, Al, K, N, P, Mg and Ca) across all sites. Surface soil moisture was measured at bi- weekly intervals for five years across the middle elevation site only. Stand basal area, mean canopy height, gap size and canopy area index (a surrogate for leaf area index) all declined with increase in elevation. As expected, understory PPFD decreased with increases in canopy height, basal area and canopy area index. The size of canopy opening decreased with increase in elevation. Valley sites had significantly greater levels of mean soil water contents compared to midslope and ridge sites. K and Ca in gap and adjacent forest understories increased with increase in elevation. pH increased and Al decreased with elevation but only for forest understory conditions. Results suggest strong differentiation in soil and light resources with elevation that appear to relate to size of disturbance, stature of the forest, and underlying geology and soil weathering environment. This implies that silvicultural practices need to develop and tailor techniques and treatments that can be applied to the forest that emulate and/or account for change in elevation and topographic position.

Keywords: Dipterocarpus, gap dynamics, PPFD, Shorea, Sri Lanka.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4038/jnsfsr.v39i4.3881

J.Natn.Sci.Foundation Sri Lanka 2011 39 (4):321-331

How to Cite: Ediriweera, S., Singhakumara, B.M.P. and Ashton, M.S., 2011. The variation of resource availability within canopy gaps and adjacent understories across elevational gradients of a Sri Lankan rainforest. Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, 39(4), pp.321–331. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/jnsfsr.v39i4.3881
Published on 30 Dec 2011.
Peer Reviewed

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