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The Myrtaceae family in an altitudinal gradient at Atlantic Rain Forest in Southeastern Brazil: distribution and coexistence of species

Grant number: 12/01299-7
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2012
Effective date (End): September 30, 2012
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology
Principal Investigator:Carlos Alfredo Joly
Grantee:Leonardo Dias Meireles
Home Institution: Instituto de Biologia (IB). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil

Abstract

The relative importance of biotic, abiotic, and stochastic processes in structuring ecological communities continues to be a central focus in community ecology. The Atlantic Rain Forest on the slopes of Serra do Mar mountain range, in São Paulo state, occurs along an altitudinal gradient that allows changes in edaphic and climatic conditions, which may act as important environmental filters, promoting a strong floristic substitution. However, little is known about the influence of phylogenetic relationships and functional similarity in the co-occurrence of closely related species in this biome. The Myrtaceae family stands out as a good model to test these assumptions, because of its high species richness, density and dominance in the Atlantic forest communities and because of the availability of phylogenetic hypothesis for their genera. The main objective of this project is to study the altitudinal distribution of Myrtaceae species and verify whether deterministic or stochastic processes are involved in the structuring of Myrtaceae assemblages in the forest formations sampled by the thematic project BIOTA / FAPESP - Functional Gradient, where all tree individuals were mapped and the most species identified. Would phylogenetic relationship or functional similarity between species influence their distribution and co-occurrence? Would the restinga, lowland, sub-montane, and montane forest formations select a diverse set of species promoting a strong replacement of species along the altitudinal gradient? Is there any positive relationship between the abundance of congeneric species along this gradient? Could congeneric species or functionally similar species have spatially excluded each other on a local scale? We will use multivariate, macroecological, spatial distribution methods, and phylogenetic metrics to infer if phylogenetic relationships and functional similarity among Myrtaceae species would influence the structure of their assemblages at different spatial scales.