Are cloud forest tree structure and environment related in the Venezuelan Andes?
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Cloud forest vegetation structure and composition were studied in theVenezuelan Andes at three sites in Mérida State. Although the sites are within 10 to 30 km of each other, climatic, geologic and topographic differences are remarkable. The main purpose of the study was to determine the relationship of specific environmental variables to forest vegetation characteristics, including basal area, tree height, density and diversity, and leaf area index (LAI). At 51 plots, all trees’ diameter at breast height >10 cm were recorded and identified. Although the environment at the three sites is distinctive, the tree species composition of the most abundant species was very similar. None of the measured environment variables were significantly correlated with the measured vegetation structure variables, except LAI, which was correlated with slope orientation; LAI showed higher values at southfacing plots.Tree height was relatively uniform, while basal area was highly variable and reached very high values. Stem densities were in the range reported elsewhere in cloud forests. Multivariate analysis using structure or composition data shows segregation of the plots by site. Principal component analyses by site indicate a minor impact of environmental factors on forest variables. At each site, a particular group of species are correlated with the ordination axes.We conclude that species pools and forest dynamics add to the complexity of the structure of the studied cloud forests.
|Editor||Austral Ecology 36, Issue 3: 280-289|
|Institución||Universidad de Los Andes|