, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 1-14

Effects of flooding duration on species richness, floristic composition and forest structure in river margin habitat in Amazonian blackwater floodplain forests: implications for future design of protected areas

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Rivers in central Amazonia experience annual water-level fluctuations of up to 14 m, flooding vast areas of adjacent forest for periods ranging from a few to 270 days per year. At different sites, variation in the duration and type of flooding results in a mosaic of habitats that includes lakes, grasslands, forests, and streams. To study the effects of flood duration on plant species richness and floristic composition, two river margin sites were surveyed on the rivers Jaú and Tarumã-Mirim. Both areas are seasonally flooded by blackwaters, and plots were made at different topographic levels (lower, middle and upper slopes). All woody plants with DBH > 5cm were inventoried in five 10 × 40 m plots in each of the three topographic levels, which varied in length of flood duration and mean water level. Plant species richness did not vary significantly between topographic levels, but species composition varied substantially. At both study sites, the species composition exhibited distinctive distribution patterns with respect to the three topographic levels and river site. Differences in the distribution of dominant species in both sites probably relate to the ability of species to withstand seasonal flooding, although other edaphic factors associated with the topographic levels may also be important, especially for less-dominant, locally rare, and habitat generalist species. Species composition overlap among topographic levels at the two sites was highly variable ranging from 15% to 43%. Knowledge about the complex pattern of species composition and distributions between and among topographic levels and river sites is important for the preservation of the diverse flora of the blackwater forests and for the creation of future conservation management plans and design of protected areas in this ecosystem that will maintain the biodiversity.