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Community Ecology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 145–154 | Cite as

Effects of canopy gaps on forest floor vascular and non-vascular plant species composition and diversity in an uneven-aged Nothofagus betuloides forest in Tierra del Fuego, Chile

  • A. PromisEmail author
  • S. Gärtner
  • A. Reif
  • G. Cruz
Article

Abstract

Canopy gaps modify the environmental conditions available for plant growth in forests. Small canopy gaps are frequent in Nothofagus betuloides forests of Tierra del Fuego. Our objective was to study whether the forest floor vascular and non-vascular plant species composition and diversity are influenced by the occurrence of small-scale disturbances due to changes in the below-canopy solar radiation transmittances and forest floor heterogeneity (cover of litter, bare soil and fallen woody debris classed in three decay stages) in a N. betuloides forest located in south western Tierra del Fuego (53°59’S, 69 58’W). The vegetation was sampled in and around 13 canopy gaps (47 m2 on average). Following a light gradient, 65 plots (2 x 2 m) were established. The cover of all plant species was recorded using Londo’s scale. Species richness and total cover were calculated for each of the following taxonomical groups: spermatophyta (monocotyledons, dicotyledons), pteridophyta, bryophyta, marchantiophyta, anthocerotophyta and lichens. There were 63 species found on the forest floor. Marchantiophyta was the most diverse group with the highest species richness (6.6 species per plot). The vegetation on the forest floor was very homogeneous in species composition, richness and species diversity. The ordination analysis (NMS) showed that the community composition was weakly influenced by the patterns of below-canopy solar radiation transmittances and substrate heterogeneity. MRPP analysis of the community composition did not reveal differences in plant species assemblages between positions along transects running from areas beneath closed canopy to the open centres of canopy gaps. The marchantiophyte Chiloscyphus magellanicus was the only species which can be considered to be an indicator species; it was more likely to occur in gap centres (more open conditions). We conclude that these small canopy gaps do not very much modify the forest floor communities and the communities can be considered relatively stable.

Keywords

Below-canopy solar radiation transmittance Forest floor species composition Gap partitioning Nothofagus betuloides Substrate heterogeneity 

Abbreviations

IDWD

Intermediate Decayed Fallen Woody Debris

LDWD

Least Decayed Fallen Woody Debris

MDWD

Most Decayed Fallen Woody Debris

MRPP

Multi-response Permutation Procedure Analyses

NMS

Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling

PAI

Plant Area Index

Nomenclature

Zuloaga et al. (2008) for vascular plants Müller (2009) for bryophytes Hässel de Menéndez and Rubies (2009) for marchantiophytes and anthocerotophytes Galloway and Quilhot (1998) for lichens 

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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2012

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Silviculture and Nature ConservationUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Institute of SilvicultureUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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