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1 April 2007 Relationships between soil hydrology and forest structure and composition in the southern Brazilian Amazon
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Question: Is soil hydrology an important niche-based driver of biodiversity in tropical forests? More specifically, we asked whether seasonal dynamics in soil water regime contributed to vegetation partitioning into distinct forest types.

Location: Tropical rain forest in northwestern Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Methods: We investigated the distribution of trees and lianas ≥ 1 cm DBH in ten transects that crossed distinct hydrological transitions. Soil water content and depth to water table were measured regularly over a 13-month period.

Results: A detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) of 20 dominant species and structural attributes in 10 × 10 m subplots segregated three major forest types: (1) high-statured upland forest with intermediate stem density, (2) medium-statured forest dominated by palms, and (3) low-statured campinarana forest with high stem density. During the rainy season and transition into the dry season, distinct characteristics of the soil water regime (i.e. hydro-indicators) were closely associated with each vegetation community. Stand structural attributes and hydro-indicators were statistically different among forest types.

Conclusions: Some upland species appeared intolerant of anaerobic conditions as they were not present in palm and campinarana sites, which experienced prolonged periods of saturation at the soil surface. A shallow impermeable layer restricted rooting depth in the campinarana community, which could heighten drought stress during the dry season. The only vegetation able to persist in campinarana sites were short-statured trees that appear to be well-adapted to the dual extremes of inundation and drought.

Nomenclature: Ribeiro et al. (1999).

Stefan Jirka, Andrew J. McDonald, Mark S. Johnson, Ted R. Feldpausch, Eduardo G. Couto, and Susan J. Riha "Relationships between soil hydrology and forest structure and composition in the southern Brazilian Amazon," Journal of Vegetation Science 18(2), 183-194, (1 April 2007).[183:RBSHAF]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 April 2007

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