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Acta Botanica Brasilica

Print version ISSN 0102-3306On-line version ISSN 1677-941X


LOPES, Celio M. et al. The role of terrestrial bromeliads in determining the spatial organization of plant life forms in a tropical coastal forest. Acta Bot. Bras. [online]. 2017, vol.31, n.1, pp.84-92.  Epub Mar 13, 2017. ISSN 0102-3306.

The interplay between plant-plant interactions and light heterogeneity in the understory of tropical forests has rarely been examined. We aimed to identify the relative importance of the understory light environment and terrestrial bromeliads in explaining the abundance and spatial organization of different plant life forms along a coastal forest gradient from seashore inland in southeastern Brazil. We estimated the abundance of various life forms (herbs, woody plants, bromeliads, climbers, and palms) and the degree of light availability using hemispherical photographs in 165 plots (1 m2) within a 1.75 ha site. We used ordination methods, partial redundancy analysis (pRDA), spatial filtering using Moran’s eigenvector mapping, and Moran’s I splines. Forest cover was highly heterogeneous, but did not explain variation in abundance of life forms. Spatially, bromeliads were negatively associated with woody saplings, herbs and climbing plants at scales between 5-20 m, while the distance to seashore was found to be unrelated to these patterns. Our findings revealed that terrestrial bromeliads play an important role in the spatial organization of various life forms near the forest floor. Overall, the presence of terrestrial bromeliads and the plant area index better explained the understory vegetation than forest cover and distance to seashore.

Keywords : community assembly; hemispherical photographs; herb layer; shrub layer; spatial patterns.

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