Topographic impacts on vegetation height and composition in northwestern Belize

Authors: Nick Brokaw*, University of Puerto Rico, Sara Eshleman, University of Texas at Austin, Sheila Ward, Mahogany for the Future, Inc., Timothy Beach, University of Texas at Austin, Colin Doyle, University of Texas at Austin, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Environmental Science, Biogeography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: tropical forest dynamics, ecosystem heterogeneity, remote sensing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Many researchers have emphasized the relationship between vegetation and topography in northwestern Belize. The Rio Bravo Conservation Management area (RBCMA) is dominated by semi-deciduous moist forest, which has been extensively studied through the use of tree identification plots along transects. Twenty-five years of this fieldwork has derived species-level information about the forest types existing in consort with topographic features. This work has posited that the forest falls into a discrete number of vegetation types, which directly correspond with slope and elevation. Recently, with the acquisition of LiDAR data, we are able to investigate the vegetation-topography relationship over relatively large scales. Thus far, the relationships between canopy height and slope, elevation, and local relief have been assessed, and have shown that vegetation height is partially explained by topography in RBCMA, supporting the previous fieldwork. The combination of small-scale and large-scale methods reveals characteristics of forest heterogeneity in this region, which has far-reaching implications for future research, as well as ecosystem services for humans.

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