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  • Author or Editor: R. Cielo-Filho x
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Among other objectives, forest inventories are aimed to identify ecological communities and to correlate community composition with environmental variables. The identification of different communities would require several forest inventories, each covering small sampling areas with relatively homogeneous environmental conditions. The multiple plot sampling method, traditionally used in local inventories of tropical forests, cannot assure such homogeneity, since even small sampling areas would show environmental heterogeneity influencing vegetation. In this paper we assessed the consequences of this heterogeneity for sampling by quantifying the variability of species abundance ranks for species sampled with 10 or more individuals in a set of plots covering a small sampling area. The species reference abundance ranks were obtained from a sample of 100 plots of 10 m × 10 m each randomly set in a sampling area of 6.5 ha in a tropical forest fragment (Southeastern Brazil). For each species we used resamplings (30 trials) to obtain the species abundance ranks in sub-samples, considering different sampling intensities (n = 25, 50 and 75 plots), and compared these ranks with the species reference rank (n = 100 plots). Then, we compared the species ranks in sub-samples of 50 plots (10.000 trials) with the reference rank and assessed the frequency and extent of rank displacements. Species rank was highly variable across resampling trials for the sampling intensities of n = 25 and n = 50, but decreased considerable with a sampling intensity of n = 75 plots. The mean rank variability and especially the maximum displacement raised significantly from the seventh most abundant species on, and some species occupied quite discrepant abundance ranks in up to 10% of the 10.000 resampling trials. This high internal variability of forest samples may impair the search for floristic patterns as scale lessens, say, to the meso-scale (1–100 km2). We discussed some possible ways to increase internal homogeneity of tropical forest samples with the multiple plot sampling method. Among these, objective entitation, based on an ancient phytosociological procedure, is suggested as the most appropriate for use on the hilly relieves of the Atlantic forest biome.

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The species abundance distribution of ecological communities has been represented through several mathematical models, of which the most common are: geometric series, logseries, lognormal, and a type of broken stick, this latter found only in animal communities. There is no consensus on the underlying biological processes, but initial observations on plant communities related these models to equilibrium and high richness (lognormal), stress or disturbance and low richness (logseries and geometric series). Recently the value of these relationships was challenged, and other descriptors were considered better predictors of richness, disturbance and stress. We aimed at investigating how these models and their parameters, as well as dominance and evenness are related with species richness, stress and disturbance in six tropical forest communities, SE Brazil: two well-conserved fragments, two disturbed by fire, and two swampy forests (anoxic stress). The models did not show consistent relationships with richness, disturbance or stress. The parameters and indices of diversity a (logseries) and l (lognormal) varied closely with richness, and the dominance was larger in the communities submitted to stress or disturbance. Our results indicate the need of further studies in order to validate (or refute) the use of abundance distribution models for detection of patterns related to richness, stress or disturbance in tropical arboreal communities. On the other hand, richness and dominance did respond to disturbance and stress.

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