Cerrado to Rupestrian Grasslands: Patterns of Species Distribution and the Forces Shaping Them Along an Altitudinal Gradient

  • G. Wilson Fernandes
  • Hernani A. Almeida
  • Cássio A. Nunes
  • João Henrique A. Xavier
  • Neil S. Cobb
  • Marco Antônio A. Carneiro
  • Tatiana Cornelissen
  • Frederico S. Neves
  • Sérvio P. Ribeiro
  • Yule Roberta F. Nunes
  • Ana Carolina V. Pires
  • Marina V. Beirão


Due to clear variations in a relatively small area, mountains represent natural laboratories for evolutionary and ecological studies. In a large degree, these variations are driven by changes in climate and soil that occur along altitudinal gradients and influence the ecology, evolution and geography of species. In spite of being old and eroded, the southern Brazilian mountains provide enough variation and heterogeneity to influence species distribution and diversity. The best-known Brazilian mountain range is the Espinhaço (the Backbone mountains). The Espinhaço is a large natural watershed divider of major ecological importance in eastern Brazil. The altitudinal gradient in the Espinhaço Mountains is low when compared to other tall mountains in the world as it only varies from ca. 650 to 2.072 m a.s.l. at the Sun Peak (Pico do Sol). This chapter synthesizes the results of 10 studies that have collectively examined the soil, climate to better understand patterns and processes associated with biodiversity of key groups of organism, including of plants, termites, dung beetles, ants, butterflies, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, insect herbivores and birds in an altitudinal gradient (from 800 to 1400 m a.s.l.) at Espinhaço mountain range. In this mountain range, the soils are primarily poor and the vegetation is dominated by rupestrian grasslands, and both are known to vary along the altitudinal gradient hence providing opportunities for variation in the associated organisms.


Species Richness Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Plant Species Richness Altitudinal Gradient Dung Beetle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the many stakeholders that have actively participated in this study by providing the land for the research, logistics, and even engaged in seminars and workshops: Serra Morena Inn, Cedro Cachoeira Textile Industry, Vellozia Reserve, Pedra do Elefante Inn, Eduardo C. Costa Jr, Planta Ltda, and Serra do Cipó National Park for logistical support. We are thankful to CNPq/PELD, ComCerrado /MCT and FAPEMIG for several grants that have supported this study, to José Eugênio C. Figueira for statistical advice, to Campestris for support in the editing and formatting some of the illustrations, and to OnsetBrasil for continued field support with the climatic stations.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Wilson Fernandes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hernani A. Almeida
    • 1
  • Cássio A. Nunes
    • 1
  • João Henrique A. Xavier
    • 1
  • Neil S. Cobb
    • 3
  • Marco Antônio A. Carneiro
    • 4
  • Tatiana Cornelissen
    • 5
  • Frederico S. Neves
    • 6
  • Sérvio P. Ribeiro
    • 7
  • Yule Roberta F. Nunes
    • 8
  • Ana Carolina V. Pires
    • 1
  • Marina V. Beirão
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecologia Evolutiva & Biodiversidade/DBG, CP 486ICB/Universidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  2. 2.Department of BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research Peterson HallNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  4. 4.Entomologia Ecológica/DEBIO, ICEBUniversidade Federal de Ouro PretoOuro PretoBrazil
  5. 5.Departamento de Ciências Naturais, Campus Dom BoscoUniversidade Federal de São João del-ReiSão João del-ReiBrazil
  6. 6.Departamento de Biologia GeralICB/Universidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  7. 7.EcologiaEvolutiva de Insetos de Dossel e Sucessão Natural/DEBIO, ICEBUniversidade Federal de Ouro PretoOuro PretoBrazil
  8. 8.Ecologia Vegetal/DBG, CP 126CCBS/Universidade Estadual de Montes ClarosMontes ClarosBrazil

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