Aim This contribution treats the phytogeography of the contemporary campos de altitude flora, with a focus on patterns at the level of genus. Comparative analysis using data from 17 other sites in Latin America is used to describe phytogeographical patterns at the continental scale. Results are combined with those of previous publications to shed light on the biogeographical origins of contemporary floristic patterns in the high mountains of south-east Brazil.
Location The campos de altitude are a series of cool-humid, mountaintop grass- and shrublands found above elevations of 1800–2000 m in south-east Brazil, within the biome of the Atlantic Forest.
Methods Vascular floras are compiled for the three best-known campos de altitude sites, and for 17 other highland and lowland locations in Latin America. Floras are binned into phytogeographical groups based on centres of diversity/origin. Floristic and geographical distances are calculated for all location-pairs; Mantel tests are used to test for relationships between patterns in geographical distance, and floristic and climatic similarity. Multivariate statistics are carried out on the similarity matrices for all genera, and for each phytogeographical group. Predominant life-forms, pollination and dispersal syndromes are determined for each genus in the campos de altitude flora, and proportional comparisons are made between phytogeographical groups. Supporting evidence from previously published literature is used to interpret analytical results.
Results Two-thirds of the genera in the campos de altitude are of tropical ancestry; the remainder are of temperate-zone or cosmopolitan ancestry. Most campos de altitude genera are phanerophytes and hemicryptophytes, insect pollinated, and wind or gravity dispersed, but there are significant differences in the distribution of these traits among phytogeographical groups. The campos de altitude show stronger floristic similarities with other Brazilian mountain sites and distant Andean sites than with nearby low- and middle-elevation sites; these similarities are best explained by climatic similarities. Floristic similarities among sites for temperate genera are better explained by ‘sinuous’ distance (e.g. measured along the spines of mountain ranges) than by direct distance; similarities in tropical genera are more related to direct distance. Different phytogeographical groups appear to be responding to different climatic signals.
Main conclusions Many taxa currently living at the summits of the south-east Brazilian Highlands trace their ancestry to temperate latitudes. Patterns of endemism and diversity in the south-east Brazilian mountains point to climatically driven allopatry as a principal mechanism for speciation. The tropical component of the campos de altitude flora is primarily derived from drier, highland environments of the Brazilian interior; the temperate component rises in importance with elevation, but never reaches the levels seen in the tropical Andes. Most temperate taxa in the campos de altitude appear to have arrived via migration through favourable habitat rather than by recent, long-distance dispersal. At least 11% of the plant species in the campos de altitude study sites are directly shared with the Andes. Palynofloras show that the campos de altitude have significantly contracted over the past 10,000 years, as regional temperatures have warmed and become more humid.