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Multi-scale comparisons of tree composition in Amazonian terra firme forests

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Abstract:

We explored the floristic composition of terra firme forests across Amazonia using 55 plots. Firstly, we examined the floristic patterns using both genus- and species-level data and found that the species-level analysis more clearly distinguishes among forests. Next, we compared the variation in plot floristic composition at regional- and continental-scales, and found that average among-pair floristic similarity and its decay with distance behave similarly at regional- and continental-scales. Nevertheless, geographical distance had different effects on floristic similarity within regions at distances <100 km, where north-western and south-western Amazonian regions showed greater floristic variation than plots of central and eastern Amazonia. Finally, we quantified the role of environmental factors and geographical distance for determining variation in floristic composition. A partial Mantel test indicated that while geographical distance appeared to be more important at continental scales, soil fertility was crucial at regional scales within western Amazonia, where areas with similar soil conditions were more likely to share a high number of species. Overall, these results suggest that regional-scale variation in floristic composition can rival continental-scale differences within Amazonian terra firme forests, and that variation in floristic composition at both scales is influenced by geographical distance and environmental factors, such as climate and soil fertility. To fully account for regional-scale variation in continental studies of floristic composition, future floristic studies should focus on forest types poorly represented at regional scales in current datasets, such as terra firme forests with high soil fertility in north-western Amazonia.

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