Abstract

Species-area relation and species abundance distribution in a plant community on a tropical inselberg: effect of patch size. Although inselbergs are iconic rock outcrops with a high biogeographic value, little is known about drivers responsible for the plant community assembly. The aim of this research was to evaluate how the patch size distribution of vegetation influences the species-area relationship and species abundance distribution of a community in an inselberg of the “Piedra La Tortuga” Natural Monument of the Guayana region, Venezuela. In this context, three research questions were established: What is the effect of patch size on species richness? What species-area model (SAR) has the best fit in those vegetation patches? How is the distribution of species abundances (SADs) induced by the patch size distribution? A stratified random sampling was performed in patches ranging from 0.34 to 14.8 m2, totaling 40 sampling units (226 m2). All individuals found in the 40 patches were identified at species level. The floristic composition in the different samples was represented by 19 families, 22 genera and 24 species, of which 50 % are endemic to inselbergs and two, are threatened of extinction. Two groups of patch sizes were identified (large 8-15 m2 and small ≤ 7.9 m2) in relation to the abundance and composition of species. The species accumulation curves for each patch size group show a contrasting tendency with marked differences in the observed richness among patch size groups. The curves of the SADs models had a significant adjustment of the geometric series in the two categories of patches. The SAR model of the power function presented the best species-area adjustments, where the increase in patch area accounted for 82 % of the variation in the increase in the number of species. The results of this study demonstrate for the first time how vegetation patches of a tropical inselberg have a strong influence on richness, abundance distribution and species composition. Likewise, it was determined that the SAD geometric model presented the best fit in the community as a function of patch size as a resource indicator, where the abundance of a species can be equivalent to a proportion of the space occupied. It is also presumed that changes in patch sizes could be associated with nutrient and water availability, as has been demonstrated in other dryland environments. In some studies it has been argued that variation in species composition among vegetation profiles of tropical inselbergs is mainly conditioned by habitat structure and water deficit. However, it had not been discussed how the size of patches of vegetation has an effect on richness. SADs and SAR analyzes can provide complementary explanations on community assembly in inselbergs. Rev. Biol. Trop. 66(2): 937-951. Epub 2018 June 01.

 

Keywords: community assembly, geometric series, power law, rarefaction, richness, vegetation patches.