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Tree species compositional change and conservation implications in the white‐water flooded forests of the Brazilian Amazon

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Aim  The aim of this study was to use compositional changes in tree species along the Amazon River floodplain in Brazil to identify and characterize biogeographic regions that would serve as broad surrogates for conservation planning.

Location  The main course of the Amazon River in Brazil, covering a river distance of approximately 2800 km.

Methods  Two sampling methods were employed at specific sites: standardized transects and/or individual‐based samples. Seventy‐three samples were collected from 26 sites at approximately 100‐km intervals along the floodplain. Biogeographic regions were identified by non‐metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination and by a hierarchical cluster analysis. The relative influence of environmental components (flood depths, annual rainfall, and length of the dry season) on tree species composition and one spatial component (longitude) were analysed by multiple regressions against a one‐dimensional NMDS ordination axis.

Results  Based on tree species composition, three main biogeographic regions were identified: a western region between Tabatinga and the Negro River confluence; a central region from the Negro River confluence to the Xingu confluence; and an estuarine region from the Xingu confluence to Santana. The regions identified were consistent using different data sets and analytical techniques. Mixed environmental and spatial effects explained most of the variation, but the spatial effect alone had a greater influence on species composition than environmental effects alone.

Main conclusions  The regions delimited in the analyses differed from those based on geomorphology or World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ecoregions. These results reinforce the need for surrogates to be tested against biological data before they are used to shape approaches to conservation planning. Although a protected area coverage of 25% gives the impression of extensive conservation management on the floodplain, less than 1% of the Amazon’s floodplain in Brazil is strictly protected. The significant compositional differences between regions and the strong spatial variation along the Amazon indicate that strict protection areas should be distributed much more evenly within and between regions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Coordenação de Ciências da Terra e Ecologia, Av. Perimetral 1901, Belém, PA, CEP 66077-830, Brazil 2: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia 3: Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Coordenação de Zoologia, Av. Perimetral 1901, Belém, PA, CEP 66077-830, Brazil 4: Fundação Vitória Amazônica, Rua Estrela D’alva, No. 146, Manaus-AM, CEP 69.060-093, Brazil 5: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Herbário, Av. André Araujo 2936, Manaus, AM, CEP 69060-001, Brazil

Publication date: 01 May 2012

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