J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (6): 1047-1058 .DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rty054

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of environmental conditions and space on species turnover for three plant functional groups in Brazilian savannas

Hélio Menegat1, Divino Vicente Silvério1,2, Henrique A. Mews3, Guarino R. Colli1,4, Ana Clara Abadia1, Leonardo Maracahipes-Santos1,2, Lorrayne A. Gonçalves1, Jhany Martins1 and Eddie Lenza1,*   

  1. 1Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso, Campus Universitário de Nova Xavantina, Rua Prof. Dr. Renato Figueiro Varella, Caixa Postal, 08, 78690-000, Nova Xavantina, MT, Brazil
    2Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia, Rua Horizontina 104, 78640-000, Canarana, MT, Brazil
    3Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Natureza, Universidade Federal do Acre, Caixa Postal 500, 69920-900, Rio Branco, AC, Brazil
    4Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade de Brasília, 70910-900, Brasília, DF, Brazil
    *Correspondence address. Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso, Campus Universitário de Nova Xavantina, Rua Prof. Dr. Renato Figueiro Varella, Caixa Postal 08, 78690-000, Nova Xavantina, MT, Brazil. E-mail: eddielenza@yahoo.com.br
  • Received:2018-03-11 Revised:2018-10-30 Accepted:2018-11-27 Published:2019-12-01



Different plant functional groups display diverging responses to the same environmental gradients. Here, we assess the effects of environmental and spatial predictors on species turnover of three functional groups of Brazilian savannas (Cerrado) plants—trees, palms and lianas—across the transition zone between the Cerrado and Amazon biomes in central Brazil.


We used edaphic, climatic and plant composition data from nine one-hectare plots to assess the effects of the environment and space on species turnover using a Redundancy Analysis and Generalized Dissimilarity Modeling (GDM), associated with variance partitioning.

Important Findings

We recorded 167 tree species, 5 palms and 4 liana species. Environmental variation was most important in explaining species turnover, relative to geographic distance, but the best predictors differed between functional groups: geographic distance and silt for lianas; silt for palms; geographic distance, temperature and elevation for trees. Geographic distances alone exerted little influence over species turnover for the three functional groups. The pure environmental variation explained most of the liana and palm turnover, while tree turnover was largely explained by the shared spatial and environmental contribution. The effects of geographic distance upon species turnover leveled off at about 300 km for trees, and 200 km for lianas, whereas they were unimportant for palm species turnover. Our results indicate that environmental factors that determine floristic composition and species turnover differ substantially between plant functional groups in savannas. Therefore, we recommend that studies that aim to investigate the role of environmental conditions in determining plant species turnover should examine plant functional groups separately.

Key words: environmental gradient, spatial gradient, Neotropical savannas, ecological tension zone, life forms, ecological groups