Effect of selective logging on forest structure and nutrient cycling in a seasonally dry Brazilian Atlantic forest


*Dora Villela, Laboratório de Ciências Ambientais, CBB, Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense (UENF), Av. Alberto Lamego 2000, Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro 28013-600, Brazil.
E-mail: dora@uenf.br


Aim  The Brazilian Atlantic forest covers c. 10% of its original extent, and some areas are still being logged. Although several ecological studies in Atlantic forest have been published over the past two to three decades, there has been little research on forest dynamics and there is a particular lack of information on the effects of disturbance. The aim of the present study was to assess the impact of selective logging on forest structure, floristic composition soil nutrients, litterfall and litter layer in a seasonally dry Atlantic forest.

Location  The Mata do Carvão is located in the Guaxindiba Ecological Reserve in São Francisco do ltabapoana district (21°24′ S, 41°04′ W), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Methods  Four plots (50 × 50 m) were set up in 1995 in each of two stands: unlogged and logged. In each plot, all trees ≥ 10 cm d.b.h. were enumerated, identified and measured. Vouchers were lodged at UENF Herbarium. Five surface soil samples were collected in each plot in the dry season (in October 1995). Litterfall was collected in eight traps (0.50 m2) in each plot over a year from 14 November 1995 to 11 November 1996. The litter layer was sampled in eight quadrats (0.25 m2) in each plot in the dry and wet seasons. Soils were air-dried, sieved, and chemically analysed. The litter was dried (80 °C), sorted into six fractions, weighed and bulked samples analysed for nutrients.

Results  Forest stands did not differ in stem density and total basal area, with a total of 1137 individuals sampled in 1996 (564 unlogged and 573 logged), and a total basal area of 15 m2 (unlogged) and 13.0 m2 (logged). However, unlogged stands had more large trees (≥ 30 cm in d.b.h.) and greater mean canopy height. Among the families, Rutaceae and Leguminosae were the most abundant families in both sites, although the Rutaceae had a higher density in unlogged and Leguminosae in the logged stand. The species diversity index was similar between stands. Late-successional species, such as Metrodorea nigra var. brevifolia and Paratecoma peroba, were less abundant in the logged stand. Selective logging did not affect nutrient concentrations in the soil or in the litter. However, quantities of the nutrients in the total litterfall and in the leaf litterfall and litter layer were higher in unlogged than in logged stands, mainly as a result of fallen M. nigra leaves. Metrodorea nigra was considered a key species in the nutrients dynamics in Carvão forest.

Main conclusions  Despite the fact that effects on tree diversity and soil nutrients were not clear, selective logging in this Atlantic forest altered canopy structure, increased the relative abundance of some early-secondary species and decreased the litter input and stock of nutrients. Detailed information on the influence of logging on the distribution and structure of plant populations and in nutrient processes is fundamental for a sustainable logging system to be developed.