Drastic erosion in functional attributes of tree assemblages in Atlantic forest fragments of northeastern Brazil

Bráulio A. Santos, Carlos A. Peres, Marcondes A. Oliveira, Alexandre Grillo, Cecília P. Alves-Costa, Marcelo Tabarelli

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Abstract

The long-term dynamics of plant communities remain poorly understood in isolated tropical forest fragments. Here we test the hypothesis that tropical tree assemblages in both small forest fragments and along forest edges of very large fragments are functionally much more similar to stands of secondary growth (5-65-yr old) than to core primary forest patches. The study was carried out in a severely fragmented landscape of the Brazilian Atlantic forest. Nine functional attributes of tree assemblages were quantified by sampling all trees (DBH = 10 cm) within 75 plots of 0.1 ha distributed in four forest habitats: small forest fragments (3.4-79.6 ha), forest edges, second-growth patches, and primary forest interior areas within a large forest fragment (3500 ha). These habitats were markedly different in terms of tree species richness, and in the proportion of pioneer, large-seeded, and emergent species. Age of second-growth stands explained between 31.4% and 88.2% of the variation in the functional attributes of tree assemblages in this habitat. As expected, most traits associated with forest edges and small forest fragments fell within the range shown by early (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-260
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume141
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

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