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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(10), 864; doi:10.3390/rs8100864

Abrupt Change in Forest Height along a Tropical Elevation Gradient Detected Using Airborne Lidar

1
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
2
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
3
School of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW 2006, Australia
4
Geosciences Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
5
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02916, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Anu Swatantran and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 23 June 2016 / Revised: 1 October 2016 / Accepted: 16 October 2016 / Published: 20 October 2016
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [873 KB, uploaded 20 October 2016]   |  

Abstract

Most research on vegetation in mountain ranges focuses on elevation gradients as climate gradients, but elevation gradients are also the result of geological processes that build and deconstruct mountains. Recent findings from the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico, have raised questions about whether erosion rates that vary due to past tectonic events and are spatially patterned in relation to elevation may drive vegetation patterns along elevation gradients. Here we use airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology to observe forest height over the Luquillo Mountain Range. We show that models with different functional forms for the two prominent bedrock types best describe the forest height-elevation patterns. On one bedrock type there are abrupt decreases in forest height with elevation approximated by a sigmoidal function, with the inflection point near the elevation of where other studies have shown there to be a sharp change in erosion rates triggered by a tectonic uplift event that began approximately 4.2 My ago. Our findings are consistent with broad geologically mediated vegetation patterns along the elevation gradient, consistent with a role for mountain building and deconstructing processes. View Full-Text
Keywords: ecology; vegetation; geology; active remote sensing; erosion; tectonics; 10Be; critical zone observatory; long-term ecological research; three-dimensional structure ecology; vegetation; geology; active remote sensing; erosion; tectonics; 10Be; critical zone observatory; long-term ecological research; three-dimensional structure
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Wolf, J.; Brocard, G.; Willenbring, J.; Porder, S.; Uriarte, M. Abrupt Change in Forest Height along a Tropical Elevation Gradient Detected Using Airborne Lidar. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 864.

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