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Landslide Distributions and Succession Across a 2.5-km Andes-to-Amazon Elevational Gradient

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Landslide Distributions and Succession Across a 2.5-km Andes-to-Amazon Elevational Gradient
Freund, Cathryn
Natural disturbances and recovery through succession shape tropical forest ecosystems. However, despite the immense biodiversity of tropical montane forests and their importance to global ecology, scientific understanding of disturbances, particularly landslides, lags that of other aspects of tropical montane forest ecology. Over time, our limited understanding of landslide ecology has developed, first from field studies of small groups of landslides, to larger studies informed by satellite imagery. Now, a range of remote sensing techniques unlocks new possibilities for understanding landslides at the landscape scale, linking disturbance and succession to the large body of knowledge about the biodiversity and functioning of intact, mature tropical montane forests. In this dissertation, I ask and answer three questions about the role of landslides in montane forests in the southeastern Peruvian Andes, using a combination of remotely sensed and field-collected data. In the first data chapter, I explore the spatial distribution of canopy gaps across a forest landscape to uncover how the topographic and biophysical environment is linked to the occurrence and sizes of natural disturbances. In the following chapter, I focus on 608 landslides occurring within this landscape from 1988 – 2012 to identify how quickly the tropical montane forests affected by these disturbances regain height and structure. In the last data chapter, I describe patterns of vegetation cover and composition across a single large, decades-old landslide. Finally, in my conclusion I advance six areas of study I believe should be priorities for the next wave of landslide ecology research in the Andes. My findings shed light on the role of landslides in tropical montane forest ecosystems, including how these disturbances contribute to spatial variability in aboveground biomass, carbon storage, and biodiversity, and set the stage for the future of the field of landslide ecology.
natural disturbances
tropical forest
Silman, Miles (committee chair)
Asner, Gregory (committee member)
Anderson, Michael (committee member)
Hepler, Staci (committee member)
Smith, William (committee member)
2022-05-24T08:36:16Z (accessioned)
2022-05-24T08:36:16Z (available)
2022 (issued)
Biology (discipline)
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/100781 (uri)
en (iso)
Wake Forest University

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