, Volume 8, Issue 9, pp 1281-1294

Alien grasses in Brazilian savannas: a threat to the biodiversity

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African grasses used as forage are spreading fast in cerrado (Brazilian savanna) patches, probably displacing native species. An analysis of the graminoid species abundance was performed in Cerrado Pé-de-Gigante Reserve (São Paulo State, Brazil), where their relative frequency, density, dominance and the value of importance were assessed in two cerrado forms: cerrado sensu stricto (denser) and campo cerrado (open). Thirty-six transects were determined, along which 3240.5 m × 0.5 m herbaceous samples were taken. Ordination by CCA analysis was performed to detect gradients in the graminoid species distribution, according to shading, distance from the reserve border and aspect. Interspecific associations among the species were tested. A total of 93 species were sampled, predominantly Poaceae and Myrtaceae families. Two alien grasses were found, Melinis minutiflora and Brachiaria decumbens, with very high values of importance. Light availability proved to be the most important analyzed environmental factor related to graminoid distribution, strongly correlated with the abundance of M. minutiflora. Both alien grasses were negatively associated with most native graminoids, suggesting they exert a strong competitive pressure on the native herbaceous community. Attention must be taken to the introduction of alien species in the country.