This study examined the composition and structure of tropical rain forest in four permanent plots on the island of Ta'u, American Samoa. Two 1-ha plots were established in coastal forest, one in an abandoned coastal cultivation site (a ''plantation'' ca. 17 yr post-abandonment) and another in a Dysoxylum samoense–dominated coastal forest. Two 2-ha plots were established in lowland forest at 200–250 m elevation, one in an abandoned plantation (ca. 13 yr postabandonment) and the other in less-disturbed mid- to late-secondary mixed lowland forest. In the total 6 ha, we encountered 54 tree species, with Dysoxylum samoense the most dominant species overall and abundant in all four plots. The upper forest plot was the most diverse plot and exhibited low similarity with any of the other three plots. This plot exhibited a rarefaction curve similar to those of four lowland hill forest plots on Tutuila but was most similar in composition to regenerating disturbed forest on Tutuila rather than mature, less-disturbed forest. Low similarity was found between the two Dysoxylum-dominated coastal forests and the Dysoxylum-Pometia–dominated Ottoville lava flow forest on Tutuila. By examining the populations of D. samoense across the four plots we found an impact of agriculture and cyclones on height structure of the forest. Examination of species' diameter class distributions allowed us to propose several hypotheses related to the life histories of several tree species. We documented the natural establishment of the introduced species Flueggea flexuosa into both abandoned plantations and natural forest. Monitoring these plots over time will allow us to better understand successional processes in natural and human-impacted forest including changes in composition, structure, relative abundance of nonnative species, as well as the impact of cyclones on different forest types.


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pp. 333-354
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