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How much do we know about the endangered Atlantic Forest? Reviewing nearly 70 years of information on tree community surveys

Abstract

The structure of the Atlantic Forest (AF) has been studied for almost 70 years. However, the related existing knowledge is spread over hundreds of documents, many of them unpublished and/or difficult to access. Synthesis initiatives are available, but they are restricted to only a few parts or types of the AF or are focused on species occurrence. Here, we conducted an extensive review to compile quantitative tree community surveys on all types of the AF until 2013 and to study where and how these surveys were conducted. We found 1157 relevant references, containing 2441 forest surveys published since 1945. These surveys corresponded to 2.24 million trees and 1817 ha of forests sampled. This total sampled area represents only 0.01 % of the AF remnants, showing how limited our knowledge is on AF structure. For Paraguay and the Brazilian states of Bahia and Mato Grosso do Sul this proportion was much smaller. The same was true for evergreen rainforests, Brejos de altitude and deciduous forests and most probably for the rare cloud, swamp, Caxetal and Mussununga forests for which no accurate remnant estimates were found. Since the 1980s, the amount of AF area sampled each year has increased continuously, but approximately 100 years will be necessary to sample at least 1 % of the AF. Thus, we urgently need an enormous amount of high-quality quantitative data to overcome our limited knowledge of the AF and to support conservation programs aiming to safeguard this threatened biodiversity hotspot.

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Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Ary T. Oliveira-Filho for providing the digital version of the TreeAtlan list of references and to Bruno T. Walter for providing information on several other studies. We are also grateful to Ricardo R. Rodrigues, João L.F. Batista, Jefferson L. Polizel and André Amorim for providing their published and unpublished datasets in digital form. This study was supported by the grant 2013/08722-5, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) provided to the first author. Carolina Bello and Luiz F.S. Magnago were supported by the grant 2013/22492-2 (FAPESP) and by Floresta-Escola project, respectively.

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Correspondence to Renato A. F. de Lima.

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Communicated by Jefferson Prado, Pedro V. Eisenlohr and Ary T. de Oliveira-Filho.

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de Lima, R.A.F., Mori, D.P., Pitta, G. et al. How much do we know about the endangered Atlantic Forest? Reviewing nearly 70 years of information on tree community surveys. Biodivers Conserv 24, 2135–2148 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-015-0953-1

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Keywords

  • Forest inventories
  • Mata Atlântica
  • Phytosociology
  • Sampling methods
  • Tropical forest