Palm distribution patterns in Amazonian rainforests: What is the role of topographic variation?


  • Nomenclature: Henderson (1995, 2000); see also Material and Methods section.

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Question: Are soil properties and topographic variation related with palm (Arecaceae) species composition and distribution patterns? If so, are species distribution patterns consistent across sites?

Location: 100–200 m a.s.l, non-inundated Amazonian rainforest, NE Peru.

Methods: One 0.65-ha line transect divided into 5 m by 5 m subunits was inventoried for all palm individuals at each site. Soil samples were collected, and topography was measured.

Results: A total of 56 palm taxa were recorded. Floristic similarity among transects clearly corresponded with similarity in soil cation content when species abundances were taken into account, but less so when only presence-absence data were used. Taxon-wise distribution analyses were done for the 37 most abundant palm taxa. Quite a few of these taxa proved not to be randomly distributed along the transects, but instead were clearly more abundant in some topographic positions than in others. However, the consistency of the distribution patterns across study sites proved to be rather low, and many of the palm taxa showed different distribution patterns at different sites.

Conclusions: The ambiguity in distribution patterns across study sites may partly be due to the complexity of topography as a measure of ecological conditions, and the probability that it is related to the variation in different environmental variables at different sites.