Influence of Soil Physical Properties on Plants of the Mussununga Ecosystem, Brazil
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- Saporetti-Junior, A.W., Schaefer, C.E.G.R., de Souza, A.L. et al. Folia Geobot (2012) 47: 29. doi:10.1007/s12224-011-9106-9
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Distribution ranges of plant species are related to physical variables of ecosystems that limit plant growth. Therefore, each plant species response to physical factors builds up the functional diversity of an ecosystem. The higher the species richness of an ecosystem, the larger the probability of maintaining functions and the higher the potential number of plant functional groups (FGs). Thus, the richness potentially increases the number of functions of the highly diverse Atlantic Rainforest domain in Brazil. Severe plant growth limitations caused by stress, however, decrease species richness. In the Spodosols of the Mussununga, an associated ecosystem of Atlantic Rainforest, the percentage of fine sand is directly related to water retention. Moreover, the depth of the cementation layer in the Mussununga’s sandy soil is a physical factor that can affect the plants’ stress gradients. When a shallow cementation layer depth is combined with low water retention in soils and with low fine sand percentage, the double stresses of flooding in the rainy season and water scarcity in the dry season result. This study aimed to identify FGs among Mussununga plant species responding to water stress gradients of soil and to verify the effects of the gradients on plant species richness of the Mussununga. A canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) of species abundance and soil texture variables was performed on 18 plots in six physiognomies of the Mussununga. Species richness rarefactions were calculated for each vegetation form to compare diversity. The two main axes of the CCA showed two FGs responding to soil texture and cementation layer depth: stress tolerator species and mesic species. Physical variables affect plant diversity, with species richness rising as the fine sand proportion also rises in the Mussununga. The effect of the cementation layer is not significantly related to species richness variation.