Diversity and structural patterns for tropical montane and premontane forests of central Peru, with an assessment of the use of higher-taxon surrogacy
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- La Torre-Cuadros, M.Á., Herrando-Pérez, S. & Young, K.R. Biodivers Conserv (2007) 16: 2965. doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9155-9
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The Chanchamayo valley in the Peruvian Andes formerly contained large areas of montane and premontane tropical forests, although logging and agricultural expansion has resulted in extensive deforestation and habitat fragmentation. This study evaluates the regional context of the valley by a comparison of data from a series of one hectare plots giving data on the diversity and structure of trees ≥10 dbh, and then examines in more detail data from a 1 ha plot located in a newly declared conservation area (Pampa Hermosa Reserved Zone) embodying one of the most intact forest remains. An explicit goal was also to test the efficacy of sampling using taxonomic surrogacy, which could provide an effective means of making more efficient such work among diverse tropical forests. The Cedros de Pampa Hermosa plot contained 444 individuals belonging to 135 species, 66 genera and 35 families. The families Lauraceae, Meliaceae, Moraceae and Urticaceae provided over half of the individuals counted. The high representation of Urticaceae species suggests a disturbance regime driven by the large sizes of the Meliaceae species and their dynamics on steep slopes. Indicator species analyses supported other evidence that this site at 1,600 m is located in a broad ecotonal area transitioning to premontane and lowland rain forests. Ordinations (nMDS) based on Bray–Curtis similarities and total abundance, basal areas and presence-absence data of the 598 species (3,469 individuals) found on all seven one hectare plots sampled in the valley showed a clear separation into three tree assemblage types, namely the lower montane site, and two others on the eastern and western sides of the valley. Ordination patterns were quite similar at species and family level, but did not show any site groupings at the generic level, suggesting important turnover of species and families along environmental gradients. A number of species could not be allocated to known taxonomic groups, and were evaluated as morphotaxa. The inclusion or exclusion of such taxa did not dramatically alter the main ordination patterns within taxonomic levels of botanical family or of species, which implies that rapid inventory methods and incomplete identifications can still provide data useful for conservation planning in this and similar forests.