Effects of river level fluctuation on plant species richness, diversity, and distribution in a floodplain forest in Central Amazonia
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River levels in Central Amazonia fluctuate up to 14 m annually, with the flooding period ranging from 50 to 270 days between the rising and falling phases. Vast areas of forest along the rivers contain plant species that are well adapted to annual flooding. We studied the effect of flooding level on tree species richness, diversity, density, and composition in lake, river, and stream habitats in Jaú National Park, Brazil. 3051 trees >10 cm diameter (at 1.3 m diameter at breast height, dbh) were measured and identified in 25 10 m × 40 m randomly selected plots in each habitat. Ordination methods and analysis of variance results showed that forested areas near lakes had significantly lower species richness of trees than riverine and streamside habitats. Plot species richness and diversity were strongly negatively correlated with the water level and duration of flooding. The drier (stream) habitat had more total species (54 species of trees) and more unique species of trees (6 tree species) than the riverine (52 tree species; 3 unique species) and lake (33 tree species; 3 unique species) habitats. Species composition overlap among habitats was surprisingly high (42.6–60.6% overlap), almost one-third of the species were found in all three habitat types, and few species were unique to each habitat. We conclude that: (1) duration of flooding has a strong impact on species richness, diversity and plant distribution patterns; (2) most species are adapted to a wide range of habitats and flood durations; and (3) while flood duration may decrease local diversity, it also creates and maintains high landscape-scale diversity by increasing landscape heterogeneity.
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