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Plant diversity and community structure of Brazilian Páramos

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In Eastern South America, high altitude grasslands represent a mountain system that has a high number of endemic species. However, studies on the ecology of plant communities in these environments remain scarce. We aimed to evaluate the patterns of biodiversity and structure of plant communities from rocky outcrops in high altitude grasslands of three areas at the Caparaó National Park, southeastern Brazil, by sampling 300 randomly distributed plots. Then, we compared the floristic composition, relative abundance, and biological and vegetation spectra among areas. We classified species as endemic and non-endemic and verified the occurrence of endangered species. Species richness was evaluated by rarefaction analysis on the sampling units. The importance value and species abundance distribution (SAD) models were assessed. We also performed an indicator species analysis. We sampled 58 species belonging to 49 genera and 32 families. The number of species decreased with increasing altitude, with significant differences being observed among areas regarding richness, abundance, and cover. Of the total number of species, 10 are endemic to the Caparaó National Park and 17 are listed on the Brazilian Red List of endangered species. The dominant families on all peaks were Asteraceae and Poaceae. The SAD models showed lognormal and geometric distributions, corroborating the fact that 10 species that were common to all three areas were also the most dominant ones in the communities and showed the highest importance values, which ranged between 35% and 60%. Indicator species analysis revealed that 28 species (48.27%) were indicators. Of these, 42.85% had maximum specificity, meaning that they occurred only in one area. Thus, the number of species per life form ratio was similar among areas, yet vegetation spectra differed, especially for hemicryptophytes. The altimetric difference among the areas showed to be a very important driver in the community assembly, influencing the evaluated variables, however, other drivers as soil depth, slope and water could also influence the community structure on a smaller and local spatial scale.

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The authors thank the Caparaó National Park and the Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) for granting a scholarship to the first author. Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq; 206814/2014-3, Postdoctorate scholarship of A.V.N.); Dr.Michel Barros Faria for helping with the map and Dr. Ian Michael Trotter for helping with the figures.

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Correspondence to Andreza Viana Neri.

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Campos, P.V., Villa, P.M., Nunes, J.A. et al. Plant diversity and community structure of Brazilian Páramos. J. Mt. Sci. 15, 1186–1198 (2018).

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