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The role of dispersal ability, climate and spatial separation in shaping biogeographical patterns of phylogenetically distant plant groups in seasonally dry Andean forests of Bolivia

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Abstract Aim 

To assess biogeographical patterns of Acanthaceae, Bromeliaceae, Cactaceae and Pteridophyta in Bolivian Andean seasonally dry forest islands and to explain current floristic differences between these islands by means of extrinsic (precipitation, elevation) and intrinsic (dispersal ability) factors. Location 

Ten isolated and disjunct seasonally dry forest areas in the Bolivian Andes and the adjacent seasonal forest areas of the Chiquitanía and Chaco regions. Methods 

We collated species data from recently updated and revised taxonomic treatments and herbarium collections for Acanthaceae, Bromeliaceae, Cactaceae and Pteridophyta, constructed floristic distance matrices to estimate beta diversity at the study sites and subjected them to Mantel correlation analyses. Multiple regressions on distance matrices allowed us to test the influence of geographical distance and environmental (elevation and precipitation) differences on floristic differentiation. Results 

Acanthaceae and Bromeliaceae, and to a lesser extent Cactaceae, showed coincident biogeographical patterns and suggested the presence of two seasonally dry forest groups in Andean Bolivia: one including all small isolated northern dry valleys and another including all southern valleys with connections to the lowland seasonal forests of the Chiquitanía and the Chaco. Most of the variation in the floristic distance matrices in these plant groups, with seed dispersal typically restricted to short distances, was explained by spatial separation between habitat islands. In contrast, pteridophytes showed a different biogeographical pattern. Their floristic differences between sites were determined by the environmental variables. The anemochorous and spore-based dispersal system of this plant group seems to be a highly effective mechanism allowing pteridophytes to easily reach even the isolated dry valleys in inter-Andean Bolivia. Main conclusions 

Current biogeographical patterns in dry Andean habitat islands can provide insights into the factors that control the processes of community assembly. We show that differences in community composition of phylogenetically distant plant groups in the understorey of seasonally dry forest islands can be explained by a combination of the habitat characteristics where the group is present (either precipitation, elevation or both) and, more interestingly, by group specific dispersal limitation (as inferred by geographical distance between island habitats).

Keywords: Andes; Bolivia; dispersal limitation; environmental factors; floristic dissimilarity; island biogeography; plant geography; seasonal forest island

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-02-01

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