Responses of Soil Labile Organic Carbon to a Simulated Hurricane Disturbance in a Tropical Wet Forest
Hurricanes are an important disturbance in the tropics that can alter forest ecosystem properties and processes. To understand the immediate influence of hurricane disturbance on carbon cycling, we examined soil labile organic carbon (LOC) in a Canopy Trimming Experiment (CTE) located in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico. We trimmed tree canopy and deposited debris (CTDD) on the forest ground of the treatment plots in December 2014, and collected floor mass samples and 0–10 cm soil samples three weeks before the treatment, as well as at scheduled intervals for 120 weeks after the treatment. Within the first week following the CTDD treatment, the mean soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and soil LOC in the CTDD plots were significantly greater than in the control plots (soil MBC: 2.56 g/kg versus 1.98 g/kg, soil LOC: 9.16 g/kg versus 6.44 g/kg, respectively), and the mean turnover rates of soil LOC in the CTDD plots were significantly faster than in the control plots. The measured indices fluctuated temporally more in the CTDD plots than in the control plots, especially between the 12th and 84th week after the CTDD treatment. The treatment effect on soil LOC and its turnover rate gradually disappeared after the 84th week following the treatment, while higher levels of soil MBC in the CTDD plots than in the control plots remained high, even at the 120th week. Our data suggest that hurricane disturbance can accelerate the cycling of soil LOC on a short temporal scale of less than two years, but might have a longer lasting effect on soil MBC in a tropical wet forest.