, Volume 185, Issue 5, pp 4373-4382
Date: 21 Sep 2012

Evaluating the ecological integrity of Atlantic forest remnants by using rapid ecological assessment

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Abstract

The need for quick identification of priority areas for biodiversity protection makes rapid assessment methods important management tools for defining conservation strategies. An increasingly used rapid assessment method is rapid ecological assessment (REA), a fast and flexible survey directed toward selected indicator species and vegetation forms. The purpose of this study was to propose and test REA based on plant community features of the semideciduous Atlantic forest (SAF). Correlation tests were performed between data collected by REA and plant species diversity, richness, and abundance collected by conventional woody plant inventory methods. The study was conducted in 21 SAF patches in Northern Paraná State, Brazil. The phytosociological inventory was conducted along a single transect and required 2 days to complete (excluding time spent for herbarium identification), whereas REA was conducted along three to four transects per working day. REA results correlated positively with woody plant diversity, proving REA to be an efficient method for defining the conservation status of SAF fragments, but accuracy of evaluations of threats to biological integrity are relatively low. Both the selection of appropriate variables and the skill level of field staff are critical and can strongly influence REA results.