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The effects of topography on gap distribution and dynamics in a tropical moist forest

Grant number: 12/20956-9
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): February 01, 2013
Effective date (End): November 30, 2013
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology - Ecosystems Ecology
Principal Investigator:Luciana Ferreira Alves
Grantee:Cora Jirschik Caron
Home Institution: Instituto Agronômico (IAC). Agência Paulista de Tecnologia dos Agronegócios (APTA). Secretaria de Agricultura e Abastecimento (São Paulo - Estado). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The natural formation of gaps is considered an important process in forest environments. Gaps may expand the environmental heterogeneity in a forest by adding changes in spatial and temporal scale, resulting in floristic and structural mosaics of different ages and sizes. To date, gap distribution and dynamics and its relation to the topography have been little studied in the Atlantic Forest. In order to better understand the role of topography on the disturbance regime and gap formation, this study aims to evaluate the effects of main topographic variation on the distribution and formation of new clearings along an elevational gradient of tropical moist forest (Atlantic Forest) in SE Brazil. Using a spatial positioning dataset of trees and palms with DBH e 4.8 cm collected in two censuses, we will map all forest gaps in 14 1-ha permanent plots distributed along the gradient (0-1,100m). Using the same dataset, we will also estimate the rate of gap formation and their expansion (or occlusion) in time. We intend to answer the following questions: What is the relationship between gap structure, distribution and topography? How the number of gaps, the median and total gap area vary as a function of slope? What is the rate of new gap opening? Is there a relationship between the dynamics of gap opening and closing and terrain slope? (AU)