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Diversity and ecology of saxicolous vegetation mats on inselbergs in the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest

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Inselbergs occur as mostly dome-shaped rock outcrops in all climatic and vegetational zones of the tropics. Consisting of Precambrian granites and gneisses, they form ancient and stable landscape elements. Due to harsh edaphic and microclimatic conditions, the vegetation of inselbergs differs markedly from those of the surroundings. Monocotyledonous mats form one of the most characteristic communities of this ecosystem. The floristic composition of this community was studied on six inselbergs located in the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest. Dominating are Bromeliaceae (Alcantarea, Encholirium), Velloziaceae (Vellozia), Cactaceae (Coleocephalocereus) and the Cyperaceae Trilepis. The alpha diversity of the mats was relatively uniform among the six outcrops. However, beta diversity varied considerably between the different sites. Beta diversity was highest at the most speciose locality indicating a high degree of stochasticity in colonization. In contrast to the low diversity mats on West African inselbergs, the Brazilian rock outcrops bear a floristically more diverse mat community rich in endemics. Thus the edaphically controlled inselberg vegetation reflects the outstanding diversity of the Mata Atlaântica. Possibly the high species richness of mats on East Brazilian inselbergs is a consequence of a large species-pool. The processes that regulate regional and local diversity in the Mata Atlaântica are not fully clear. It is assumed that historical (i.e. long-term stability) and biotic (i.e. evolutionary interchange of taxa between canopies and rock outcrops followed by differentiation of local populations) conditions have promoted high rates of speciation and their coexistence in isolated habitats. A danger to the unique vegetation of East Brazilian inselbergs is the establishment of invasive weeds.
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Keywords: Biodiversity; endemics; monocots; rock outcrops; weeds

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Botanisches Institut der Universität Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 170, D-53115 Bonn, Germany, 2: Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botaânico do Rio de Janeiro, Rua Pacheco Leaâo, 915, CEP 22460-030, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Publication date: May 1, 1998

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