Floristic composition and diversity of mixed primary and secondary forests in northwest Guyana


T van Andel

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Biodiversity and Conservation


The adequate protection and sustainable management of a tropical rain forest requires a good knowledge of its biodiversity. Although considerable parts of Guyana's North-West District have been allocated as logging concessions, little has been published on the forest types present in this region. The present paper reviews the floristic composition, vegetation structure, and diversity of well-drained mixed and secondary forests in northwest Guyana. Trees, shrubs, lianas, herbs and hemi-epiphytes were inventoried in four hectare plots: two in primary forests, one in a 20-year-old secondary forest and one in a 60-year-old secondary forest. The primary forests largely corresponded with the Eschweilera-Licania association described by Fanshawe, although there were substantial variations in the floristic composition and densities of dominant species. The late-succession forest contained the highest number species and was not yet dominated by Lecythidaceae and Chrysobalanaceae. There is a need for updating the existing vegetation maps of northwest Guyana, as they were based on limited information. Large-scale forest inventories may provide a fair indication of species dominance and forest composition, but do not give a reliable insight in floristic diversity. Although previous reports predicted a general low diversity for the North-West District, the forests plots of this research were among the most diverse studied in Guyana so far. These results will hopefully influence the planning of protected areas in Guyana.