Floristic composition and diversity of three swamp forests in northwest Guyana

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2003
Authors:van Andel, TR
Journal:Plant Ecology
Volume:167
Pagination:293-317
Date Published:2003
Keywords:Conservation, Flooded forests, Forest structure, Guyana, Palms, Species dominance
Abstract:

This paper reviews the floristic composition, vegetation structure, and diversity of three types of swamp forest that cover a considerable part of Guyana's North-West District. Trees, shrubs, lianas, herbs, and hemi-epiphytes were inventoried in three hectare plots: one in Mora forest, one in quackal swamp, and one in manicole swamp. The Mora forest, flooded annually by white water, was dominated by relatively few, large individuals of Mora excelsa. The very dense, thin-stemmed quackal forest, almost permanently flooded by black water, was characterized by Tabebuia insignis and Symphonia globulifera and contained few palms. The somewhat less dense manicole swamp, flooded regularly by brackish water, was distinguished by large numbers of Euterpe oleracea. Although the three swamps showed little overlap in floristic composition and densities of dominant species, they represent some of the lowest diversity forest in the Neotropics, with an ?-diversity of 7.4 for the Mora forest, 8.2 for the quackal forest and 5.7 for the manicole swamp. When compared with similar vegetation types in the Guiana Shield, the swamp forests in this study show some interesting differences in species composition and density. The wetlands of the North-West District form the last stretch of natural coastline in Guyana and play an important role in the protection of riverine ecosystems. Furthermore, there is commercial potential for the extraction of non-timber forest products from these low-diversity forests. Nevertheless, in prolonged dry periods, large tracts of quackal forest are being burnt to give way to almost treeless, flooded savannas. For these reasons, adequate management and conservation strategies must be developed for the area.

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