Steyn Hendriksen – How are microclimate and soil conditions determined by successional drivers in the Neotropical dry- and wet forests of México?

Wageningen University

Over 50% of tropical old growth forests have disappeared due to human-driven disturbances. Logically, this has serious consequences for the functioning of tropical ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and the ecosystem services. To combat these effects, Second growth forests have received more attention in the past decades. Second growth forests are forests that grow as a result of secondary succession after land abandonment, and have great untapped potential as a placeholder to fulfil the former functions of old growth forests.
One of the main drivers of secondary succession is the local microclimate and -soil conditions. These drivers are considered to be the most influential especially in the early stages of succession. However, a greater understanding of how exactly these drivers alter the pathway of secondary succession is necessary. Therefore, my study aimed to analyze how drivers at different spatial scales affects microclimate and soil conditions, and how these in turn determine forest productivity. I did so by comparing the differences that stand characteristics, surrounding forest cover and topography have on the microclimate and soil conditions. To study these effects, I spent 3 months in México specifying and measuring vegetation, taking soil samples and extracting data from sensors in both a wet- and a dry tropical forest.