Tree diversity and above-ground biomass in the South America Cerrado biome and their conservation implications

Abstract

Less than half of the original two million square kilometers of the Cerrado vegetation remains standing, and there are still many uncertainties as to how to conserve and prioritize remaining areas effectively. A key limitation is the continuing lack of geographically-extensive evaluation of ecosystem-level properties across the biome. Here we sought to address this gap by comparing the woody vegetation of the typical cerrado of the Cerrado–Amazonia Transition with that of the core area of the Cerrado in terms of both tree diversity and vegetation biomass. We used 21 one-hectare plots in the transition and 18 in the core to compare key structural parameters (tree height, basal area, and above-ground biomass), and diversity metrics between the regions. We also evaluated the effects of temperature and precipitation on biomass, as well as explored the species diversity versus biomass relationship. We found, for the first time, both that the typical cerrado at the transition holds substantially more biomass than at the core, and that higher temperature and greater precipitation can explain this difference. By contrast, plot-level alpha diversity was almost identical in the two regions. Finally, contrary to some theoretical expectations, we found no positive relationship between species diversity and biomass for the Cerrado woody vegetation. This has implications for the development of effective conservation measures, given that areas with high biomass and importance for the compensation of greenhouse gas emissions are often not those with the greatest diversity.

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Acknowledgements

PSM, FE, EAO, SMAR, BO, ECN and DN thank the Science without Borders Program, Conselho Nacional do Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Mato Grosso (FAPEMAT) for funding and scholarships. Financial support was provided by CNPq through projects PELD 403725/2012-7 and 441244/2016-5, PVE 401279/2014-6 (including 207406/2015-4) and PPBIO 457602/2012-0, and by CAPES (PVE 177/2012). GRC thanks CAPES, CNPq, Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa do Distrito Federal (FAPDF), and USAID’s PEER program under cooperative agreement AID-OAA-A-11-00012 for financial support. OLP is supported by an ERC Advanced Grant 291585 (“T-FORCES”) and is a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award holder.

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Correspondence to Beatriz Schwantes Marimon.

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Jeanine M. Felfili—In memoriam.

Communicated by David Hawksworth.

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Morandi, P.S., Marimon, B.S., Marimon-Junior, B.H. et al. Tree diversity and above-ground biomass in the South America Cerrado biome and their conservation implications. Biodivers Conserv 29, 1519–1536 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1589-8

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Keywords

  • Diversity–biomass
  • Richness
  • Carbon stocks
  • Core area
  • Transition
  • Neotropics