Bamboo overabundance alters forest structure and dynamics in the Atlantic Forest hotspot
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With fast growth rates and clonal reproduction, bamboos can rapidly invade forest areas, drastically changing their original structure. In the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, where recent mapping efforts have shown that woody bamboos dominate large areas, the present study assessed the differences in soil and vegetation between plots dominated (>90% of bamboo coverage) and not dominated (<10% of coverage) by the native Guadua tagoara. Surface soil was physically and chemically analyzed, and trees at three size classes (seedling, sapling, and adult) were counted, identified and measured. New inventories were conducted to assess recruitment, mortality, and damage rates. Bamboo plots had more fertile soils (higher bases saturation and lower potential acidity) due to the preferential occurrence of G. tagoara on more clayey soils. Bamboo-dominated plots had lower density of adult trees (diameter >5 cm) and lower species density. In addition, overall tree diameter distribution was very different between environments, with bamboo plots having greater concentration of small-sized trees. Such differences are probably related to the general tendency of higher mortality, recruitment, and damage rates in bamboo plots. Greater physical (wind and bamboo-induced damages) and physiological stress (heat and light) in bamboo plots are probable causes of bamboo-dominated plots being more dynamic. Finally, we discuss the differences between Atlantic and Amazonian Guadua-dominated forests, causes, and possible consequences of bamboo overabundance to the Atlantic Forest conservation. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.