We documented the floristic composition of pteridophytes (ferns and fern allies) and Melastomataceae in Yasuní National Park, Amazonian Ecuador. Our main questions were: (1) Are the density of individuals, species richness, and/or species diversity (measured with Shannon’s H′) of the two plant groups related to edaphic differences? and (2) How many of the pteridophyte and Melastomataceae species are non-randomly distributed in relation to a soil base content gradient within terra firme (non-inundated forest). To answer these questions, we sampled 27 line transects of 500 × 5 m distributed in an area of ca 20 × 25 km. The study area included a permanent 50 ha plot established to monitor forest dynamics; thus, our results also provide information on landscape-scale floristic variability to which results from within the plot can be compared. A total of 45,608 individuals and 140 species of pteridophytes, and 4893 individuals and 89 species of the Melastomataceae, were counted in the transects. Both with pteridophytes and with Melastomataceae, a clear negative correlation was found between the amount of extractable bases in the soil and the number of plant individuals encountered in a transect. With Melastomataceae, species richness and species diversity also were negatively correlated with soil base content, but with pteridophytes they were not. More than 50 percent of the common species of both pteridophytes and Melastomataceae were nonrandomly distributed along the soil cation content gradient within terra firme. We conclude that while the species richness patterns observed in one plant group are not indicative of similar patterns in other plant groups, it seems likely that a substantial (but unknown) proportion of species belonging to other plant groups will be found to show distribution patterns that reflect edaphic preferences within terra firme forests.
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