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Abiotic and biotic changes at the basin scale in a tropical dry forest landscape after Hurricanes Jova and Patricia in Jalisco, Mexico

Antonio Tapia-Palacios, Marco, García-Suárez, Omar, Sotomayor-Bonilla, Jesús, Atl Silva-Magaña, Miguel, Pérez-Ortíz, Gustavo, Cecilia Espinosa-García, Ana, Ángel Ortega-Hurtado, Miguel, Díaz-Ávalos, Carlos, Suzán, Gerardo, Mazari-Hiriart, Marisa
Forest ecology and management 2017
Chiroptera, Enterococcus, basins, biocenosis, biogeography, coasts, coliform bacteria, community structure, databases, dry forests, electrical conductivity, global change, habitats, hurricanes, land use, landscapes, livestock, monitoring, river water, rivers, rodents, small mammals, soil properties, vegetation cover, vegetation index, vegetation structure, water quality, watersheds, Mexico
Given the current evidence of global change, extreme events are projected to be more frequent and intense. At a river basin scale, the immediate effects of hurricanes include changes in soil properties, vegetation structure and composition, and water volume and quality, which lead to changes in species distribution and community structure. The goal of this study was to identify key abiotic and biotic elements for monitoring hurricane events at the river basin scale by linking databases of vegetation cover, small mammal diversity and water quality between 2010 and 2016. Abiotic parameters and biotic communities were monitored in a tropical dry forest (TDF) landscape on the coast of Jalisco, Mexico after two major events: Hurricanes Jova (2011) and Patricia (2015). Three zones (1-upper, 2-middle and 3-lower basin) adjacent to the TDF were analyzed along the Cuitzmala River catchment areas before and after the events. We used the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) as a proxy for vegetation greenness and the diversity index of a small mammal community of rodents and bats as indicators of terrestrial habitat quality, and Fecal Coliform (FC), Fecal Enterococci (FE), and Electrical Conductivity (EC) as indicators of the river-water condition. During the years of hurricanes (2011 and 2015) there was a decrease in the EVI and small mammal diversity, as well as changes in the concentration of FC, FE and EC. The main effects associated with the two hurricanes were observed in the lower basin where hurricanes made landfall and the forest had been converted to other land uses. The EVI, communities of small mammals, and abiotic and biotic water conditions were responsive to the effects of hurricanes and can thus be useful for a long-term ecological monitoring program at the basin scale. This program would allow a faster evaluation and response to future extreme meteorological events. Our results could be implemented through the Urban and Environmental Plans at the state level (Ordenamiento Territorial del Estado de Jalisco), through the regulation of sustainable agricultural and livestock techniques, and by educating local populations of the effects of extreme meteorological events.