Amazonian Dark Earth shapes the understory plant community in a Bolivian Amazonian Forest

E. Quintero-Vallejo, Y. Klomberg, F. Bongers, L. Poorter, M. Toledo, M. Pena Claros

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10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE) are the result of human modification of the Amazonian landscape since pre-Columbian times. ADE are characterized by increased soil fertility compared to natural soils. In the Amazonian forest, soil fertility influences understory herb and fern species composition. However, little research has been done to evaluate the effect of ADE on the composition of the understory community. We evaluated the effects of ADE and soil in 36 plots (150 m × 4 m) established in a Bolivian moist forest (La Chonta). For each plot, we determined soil nutrients, and the composition, richness, and abundance of terrestrial fern, angiosperm herb, and understory palm species. We found that the presence of ADE created a gradient in soil nutrients and pH that affected the understory species composition especially of ferns and palms. Additionally, the higher nutrient concentration and more neutral soil pH on ADE soils caused a decrease of ferns species richness. We therefore conclude that the current composition of the understory community in this particular Bolivian forest is a reflection of past human modifications of the soil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-161
JournalBiotropica
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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Keywords

  • mesoscale distribution patterns
  • anthropogenic soils
  • environmental gradients
  • species composition
  • brazilian amazonia
  • tropical forest
  • diversity
  • ferns
  • specialization
  • landscape

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