Edge effects on palm diversity in rain forest fragments in western Ecuador

Authors: Baez, Selene; Balslev, Henrik

Source: Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 16, Number 7, June 2007 , pp. 2201-2211(11)

Publisher: Springer

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At the edges of tropical rain forest fragments, altered abiotic and biotic conditions influence the structure and dynamics of plant communities. In Neotropical rain forests, palms (Arecaceae) are important floristic and ecological elements. Palms’ responses to edge effects appear to be idiosyncratic and to depend on the level of disturbance at edges. This paper explores how variation in forest structure at the edges of two old-growth forest fragments in a tropical rain forest in western Ecuador affects palms of different species, life-forms, and size classes. We investigate (1) how edge effects influence the relative proportion of palm adults and juveniles, (2) how distance from the forest edge affects palm density and species richness, (3) how altered forest structure along edges affects palm density. We found that at edges (1) palm communities had a lower proportion of adults relative to juvenile individuals compared to continuous forests, (2) the density of two species of palms and the overall species richness of the palm community tended to decrease toward the edges within forest fragments, and, (3) altered forest structure decreased the density of adult palms. Hence, edge effects on palms were controlled by the degree of modification of the forest structure, and by species responses to edge-related disturbance.

Keywords: Density; Distance; Diversity; Forest structure; Fragmentation; Palm community

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-007-9159-5

Affiliations: Email: henrik.balslev@biology.au.dk

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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