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I. Silva
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G. Carvalho Federal University of São Carlos Plant Ecology Laboratory, Department of Botany PO Box 676 São Carlos 13565-905 SP, Brazil

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P. Loiola Federal University of São Carlos Plant Ecology Laboratory, Department of Botany PO Box 676 São Carlos 13565-905 SP, Brazil

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M. Cianciaruso Federal University of Goiás Department of Ecology PO Box 131 Goiânia 74001-970 GO, Brazil

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M. Batalha Federal University of São Carlos Plant Ecology Laboratory, Department of Botany PO Box 676 São Carlos 13565-905 SP, Brazil

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Competition and facilitation are expected to leave different signatures in the pattern of species co-occurrence. Competition may result in a given species pair occurring less often than expected by chance, whereas facilitation may result in a given species pair occurring more often than expected by chance. We assessed the co-occurrence of pairs of herbaceous and shrubby species in Brazilian savannas, asking (1) whether a given species pair occurs more often than expected by chance, (2) whether the number of species pairs in sites with frequent fires is higher than expected by chance, (3) whether the difference in the functional traits of heterospecific pairs is lower in sites with frequent fires, and (4) whether small environmental variations in each site — instead of species interactions — could explain the co-occurrence of species. We used null models to answer the first two questions, analyses of variance to answer the third question, and detrended correspondence analyses to answer the fourth question. In all studied sites, approximately half of the heterospecific pairs occurred more often than expected by chance. So, facilitation seems to be important in determining the co-occurrence of some species in Brazilian savannas. However, high fire frequencies changed the pattern of occurrence of the species pairs, resulting in a spatial signature indistinguishable from random. Frequent fires also promoted phenotypic clustering of species. Nevertheless, wherever fire frequency is reduced, competition may lead to phenotypic overdispersion of plant species. Thus, less harsh environmental conditions in savannas may increase the competition among plant species.

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Community Ecology
Language English
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