Floristics and structure of the Pterocarpus officinalis swamp forest in Gaudeloupe, Lesser Antilles

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Journal of Tropical Ecology


Swamp forest covers c. 2600 ha of coastal wetlands in Guadeloupe. An inventory of all vascular plants was conducted together with a characterization of the main abiotic descriptors within seventeen 10-m √ó 40-m plots, systematically sampled throughout the forest. Girth at breast height (GBH) was measured for all trees ‚â•10 cm GBH. Four forest types were discriminated according to pH, clay content and redox potential of the soils. Among the 107 species recorded, lianas and epiphytes were as much represented as tree species (28%). However, no epiphytes were encountered at the canopy level where Pterocarpus officinalis (Papilionaceae) was the evenly dominant tree. Local hummock-hollow topography was responsible for an aggregated distribution of P. officinalis. This species exhibits several adaptative traits which may explain its dominance over all of the lowland swamp forests subjected to permanent waterlogging in the hurricane-prone Caribbean islands.