14C dating of tree falls on Barro Colorado Island (Panama): A new method to study tropical rain forest gap dynamics

Carol C Horvitz, Leonel Sternberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A new method for investigating the age structure of the patch mosaic of a tropical forest by utilizing radiocarbon dating techniques on fallen trees is proposed. Aboveground nuclear explosions in the early 1960s, before the nuclear test ban treaty, created a spike in the 14C concentration content of the atmosphere. The amount of radiocarbon in the outer layers of wood collected from trunks of trees that had died in known years (1970-1989) on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) and Gigante Peninsula (Panama) was analysed to test the hypothesis that radiocarbon concentration was predictive of year of tree death. The date of tree death was negatively related to the level of 14C, following a trend similar to published data on tree rings from German and Amazonian trees. Combining our data with these data in a statistical analysis revealed a significant predictive effect of radiocarbon on year. Analysis of covariance showed that there was no significant difference among the slopes of the three groups of data, but there was significant heterogeneity among the intercepts. The differences suggest a need for site-specific calibration and refinement of field protocols. The technique shows promise and suggestions are made to improve its usefulness for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-735
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 1999

Fingerprint

gap dynamics
tropical rain forests
Panama
tree mortality
treaties
radiocarbon dating
explosions
growth rings
tropical forests
tree trunk
age structure
calibration
statistical analysis
inflorescences
methodology
nuclear explosion
testing
covariance analysis
tree ring
tropical forest

Keywords

  • Age structure of gaps
  • Bomb peak
  • Gap dynamics
  • Radiocarbon dating of wood
  • Tropical rain forest dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

14C dating of tree falls on Barro Colorado Island (Panama) : A new method to study tropical rain forest gap dynamics. / Horvitz, Carol C; Sternberg, Leonel.

In: Journal of Tropical Ecology, Vol. 15, No. 6, 01.11.1999, p. 723-735.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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