Effects of past disturbance and edges on tree community structure and dynamics within a fragment of tropical semideciduous forest in south-eastern Brazil over a five-year period (1987-1992)
Tree community structure and dynamics of a 5.8 ha fragment of montane semideciduous forest in south-eastern Brazil are described based on two successive surveys of trees with dbh ge5 cm carried out in 1987 and 1992 in 126 20 âˆšÃ³ 20 m quadrats. The main purpose was to assess whether the spatial variation of dynamic and structural variables were related to edge-effects and past disturbance regimes. The totals for the two surveys were, respectively, 6528 and 6770 trees, and 94.89 and 108.53 m2 of basal area. The forest fragment was at an aggrading sylvigenetic phase, indicated by an overall net increase in density and basal area, and by a declining proportion of trees of smaller size. The overall annual mortality and recruitment rates were 2.6% and 3.0%, respectively. The dynamic process, however, was strongly affected by spatial heterogeneity. The more severely disturbed sectors had lower average canopy heights and basal areas per hectare, and higher tree densities, proportions of smaller trees, and relative area of canopy gaps. They also had higher mortality and recruitment rates, resulting in higher turnover rates compared to the sectors which suffered only moderate disturbance regimes. Edge sectors were also affected by different past disturbance regimes. However, they stood out by having a particularly high frequency of liana tangles and the highest rates of net increase both in density and basal area. A canonical correspondence analysis indicated that the effects of past disturbance regimes and edges were highly related to the species distribution in the area. Pioneer species were concentrated on the edges and more severely disturbed sectors, shade-tolerant species were particularly more abundant on the moderately disturbed sites, while light-demanding ones were more widely distributed. Tree community structure was also undergoing important changes, with less common species enjoying higher recruitment rates and density increase compared to the more common ones. Shade-tolerant species were increasing in relative abundance and had comparatively lower mortality rates and higher recruitment rates. On the other hand, pioneer species were under retreat, with a decreasing relative abundance, higher mortality rates and lower recruitment rates.