Dynamic and growth of the forests of the Isla del Coco National Park, Costa Rica
Introduction: Islands are essential for world biodiversity. Isla del Coco National Park is an oceanic island in which a tropical rain forest grows; however, its ecology and the effect of introduced species are poorly understood. Objective: To evaluate the mortality, recruitment, regeneration, and growth of forest canopy species. Methods: We measured 15 permanent sampling plots (PSP), nine in the Premontane Pluvial Rainforest (PPR), and six in the Cloud Forest (CF); trees with DBH > 5 cm (diameter at breast height) were measured. The sampling regeneration was done within every PSP, along two transects of 1 X 50 m. Data analyses were performed using data obtained in 2006 and 2012 as baseline. Results: In the period 2012-2017, the annual mortality rate in the PPR was 5.75 % and for CF 6.31 %. The yearly recruitment rate in the PPR was 5.38 %, and 5.90 % for CF. For the PPR the total registered regeneration was 5 656 individuals and 8 700 for the CF. Sacoglottis holdridgei reported the highest mortality and the lowest values of recruitment and regeneration. Forest structure fits the inverted J model for most of the tropical forests. Sacoglottis holdridgei define the forest population structure above DBH > 20 cm. But, diameters under 20 cm are strongly influenced by H. succosa, because it reported the highest abundance of regeneration and recruitment. The annual average increase in diameter between forest was statically different (p = 0.0414; N = 15), 0.36 cm/year in the PPR, and 0.33 cm/year the in CF. Conclusions: The PPR and CF differ in the patterns of mortality, recruitment, and regeneration, confirming the uniqueness of these ecosystems. More successful regeneration of H. succosa will lead to changes in structure and composition of forests, mainly PPR. The changes in forest structure will have a strong impact on epiphytic flora, microclimate conditions, and bird nesting such as Gygis alba (White Tern) due to the loss of mature trees of Sacoglottis. The low regeneration of S. holdridgei is associated with the presence of introduced herbivores, their management is needed for restoring the forest.