Responses of terrestrial herb assemblages to weeding and fertilization in cacao agroforests in Indonesia

Cicuzza, Daniele ; Clough, Yann ; Tjitrosoedirdjo, Sri ; Kessler, Michael

In: Agroforestry Systems, 2012, vol. 85, no. 1, p. 75-83

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    Terrestrial herbs are important ecological components in tropical agroforests, but little is known about how they are affected by agricultural management. In cacao agroforests of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, we studied the change in herb species richness, cover, and biomass over 3years in 86 subplots subjected to high and low weeding frequency as well as fertilized and non-fertilized treatments. We recorded 111 species with rapid changes in species composition between the 3years. Species richness increased sharply in the 2nd year, presumably as a result of changes in the management with the experimental regimes, and decreased in the 3rd, probably due to competitive exclusion. Species richness, cover, and biomass were all significantly higher in the infrequently weeded plots than in the frequently weeded ones, but there were only slight responses to the fertilization treatment. An indicator species analysis recovered 45 species that were typical for a given year and a further eight that were typical for certain treatments, but these species showed no clear patterns relative to their ecology or biogeography. We conclude that the herb assemblages in cacao agroforests are quite resilient against weeding, but that the cover of species shifts rapidly in response to management