Influence of a Simulated Hurricane On Aquatic Insect Recolonization In the Phytotelma of Heliconia caribaea (Heliconiacaea)

Document Type


Publication Date



Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Disturbances like hurricanes can affect diversity and community composition, which may in turn affect ecosystem function. We examined how a simulated hurricane disturbance affected insect communities inhabiting the phytotelma (plant-held waters) of Heliconia caribaea in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of eastern Puerto Rico, a tropical island that frequently experiences hurricanes. We hypothesized that disturbance would alter diversity and that larger Heliconia would attract more species following disturbance due to the area-diversity relationship described by the Theory of Island Biogeography. Individual flower parts (bracts) of Heliconia inflorescences (racemes) were artificially disturbed via removal of existing insect communities, then after refilling with water, cohorts of Heliconia were destructively sampled biweekly for 6 weeks to assess recolonization patterns of α (bract level), β, and γ (summed across bracts; raceme level) diversity over time and across raceme sizes. Although we found no support for our hypothesis about the effect of raceme size on recolonization, our hypothesis regarding recolonization patterns over time was supported; species richness, evenness, and abundance of bracts increased directly after the disturbance and then decreased below pre-disturbance levels, and community composition at the raceme level changed significantly over time during recolonization. β Diversity was also greater in smaller racemes compared to larger racemes, suggesting high heterogeneity across bracts of Heliconia racemes exacerbated by raceme size and age. Overall, our results highlight the importance of scale and appropriate measurements of diversity (particularly α) in experiments aiming to extrapolate conclusions about the ecological impacts of disturbances across different habitats and ecosystems.

Publication Title

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Find in your library