Soil characteristics associated with cohune palm (Attalea cohune) forests




Eshleman, Sara

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Cohune palms (Attalea cohune) form dominant stands within subtropical mixed forests, and consequently affect forest composition and soil morphology throughout Mesoamerica. Previous research has shown that local farmers associate these palm stands with more fertile land. Yet, we know little about the provenance and broader ecological implications of the soils underlying cohune palm forests. I used intensive soil sampling of cohune palm stands in northwestern Belize to investigate the soil characteristics associated with cohune palm forests. Soil factors connected to soil fertility were analyzed; including, organic matter content, nutrient composition, and soil texture. These factors did not reveal a clear difference in fertility between cohune palm forests and comparable mixed forests. At the same time, there are differences that exist between the soils of different forest types, and there is a diversity within cohune palm forest soils. This lends data toward better understanding the origin and implications of cohune palm forests, and other palm dominants; an understudied aspect of tropical environments. Through examining cohune stands’ interaction with associated environments, I contribute to broader questions concerning tropical forest composition and function, particularly in Central America.


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