J Plant Ecol ›› 2018, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (4): 613-622.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtx037

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Soil attributes structure plant assemblages across an Atlantic forest mosaic

Maria Fabíola Barros1,*, Bruno X. Pinho1, Tarciso Leão2 and Marcelo Tabarelli1   

  1. 1 Programa de Pós-Gradua?ão em Biologia Vegetal, Departamento de Botânica, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, PE 50670-901, Brazil; 2 Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
  • Received:2016-09-16 Accepted:2017-06-06 Published:2018-05-23
  • Contact: Barros, Maria

Abstract: Aims Community assembly persists as a key topic in ecology due to the complex variation in the relative importance of assembly forces and mechanisms across spatio-temporal scales and ecosystems. Here we address a forest–savanna vegetation mosaic in the Brazilian Atlantic forest to examine the role played by soil attributes as determinants of community assembly and organization at a landscape spatial scale.
Methods We examined soil and plant assemblage attributes across 23 plots of forest and savanna in a 1600 km 2 landscape exposed to the same climatic conditions in the Atlantic forest region of northeast Brazil. Assemblage attributes included species richness, taxonomic and functional composition (community weighted mean, CWM) and functional diversity (quadratic diversity; Rao's quadratic entropy index) relative to plant leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, thickness and succulence.
Important findings Our results suggest that forest and savanna patches exposed to the same climatic conditions clearly differ in terms of soil attributes, plant assemblage structure, taxonomic and functional composition. By selecting particular plant strategies relative to resource economy, soil potentially affects community structure, with forest assemblages bearing more acquisitive resource-use strategies, while conservative plant strategies are more frequent in savannas. Accordingly, savanna–forest mosaics in the Atlantic forest region represent spatially organized plant assemblages in terms of taxonomic and functional features, with a signal of trait convergence in both vegetation types. Soil-mediated filtering thus emerges as a potential deterministic assembly force affecting the spatial organization of savanna–forest boundaries and mosaics.

Key words: community assembly, habitat filtering, plant functional traits, savanna vegetation, tropical forest

摘要:
Aims Community assembly persists as a key topic in ecology due to the complex variation in the relative importance of assembly forces and mechanisms across spatio-temporal scales and ecosystems. Here we address a forest–savanna vegetation mosaic in the Brazilian Atlantic forest to examine the role played by soil attributes as determinants of community assembly and organization at a landscape spatial scale.
Methods We examined soil and plant assemblage attributes across 23 plots of forest and savanna in a 1600 km 2 landscape exposed to the same climatic conditions in the Atlantic forest region of northeast Brazil. Assemblage attributes included species richness, taxonomic and functional composition (community weighted mean, CWM) and functional diversity (quadratic diversity; Rao's quadratic entropy index) relative to plant leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, thickness and succulence.
Important findings Our results suggest that forest and savanna patches exposed to the same climatic conditions clearly differ in terms of soil attributes, plant assemblage structure, taxonomic and functional composition. By selecting particular plant strategies relative to resource economy, soil potentially affects community structure, with forest assemblages bearing more acquisitive resource-use strategies, while conservative plant strategies are more frequent in savannas. Accordingly, savanna–forest mosaics in the Atlantic forest region represent spatially organized plant assemblages in terms of taxonomic and functional features, with a signal of trait convergence in both vegetation types. Soil-mediated filtering thus emerges as a potential deterministic assembly force affecting the spatial organization of savanna–forest boundaries and mosaics.