The role of the shrub Cordia multispicata Cham. as a 'succession facilitator' in an abandoned pasture, Paragominas, Amazônia

Ima Célia Guimarães Vieira, Christopher Uhl, Daniel Nepstad

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169 Scopus citations


We studied the conditions that permit the shrub, Cordia multispicata, to establish in Amazon pastures and the potential role of this shrub as a 'succession facilitator' near the town of Paragominas, Pará State, Brazil. Local disturbances that reduce cover such as grazing and burning helped C. multispicata establish in pastures in active use. Germination of C. multispicata was significantly improved on sites subjected to simulated grazing and seedling growth was hastened following pasture burning. We found that below-ground competition, evaluated using root ingrowth cores, was reduced by burning and grazing. Recently abandoned pastures are frequently composed of a mix of forbs and grasses but as succession proceeds a mosaic of more discrete vegetation patches appears. At our site, a five-year-old abandoned pasture, grass patches (primarily Panicum maximum) and shrub patches (mainly C. multispicata) were common. We compared physical and biotic characteristics of zones dominated by C. multispicata and P. maximum and found: (1) the rain of bat and bird dispersed seeds of woody species was much greater in the zones of C. multispicata (92 seeds/m2/year) than in the patches of grass (6 seeds/m2/year); (2) the density of woody seedlings was eight times greater in the C. multispicata patches (0.65/m2) than in the zones of P. maximum (0.08 woody individuals/m2); (3) soil nutrient availability and litter nutrient concentrations were greater in the shrub zones than in the grass zones; and (4) photosynthetic photon flux density at the soil surface was generally more favorable for rainforest tree seedling growth in C. multispicata patches (16% of full sunlight) as compared to the grass zones (7.7% of full sun). We conclude that the shrub, C. multispicata, acts as a magnet, attracting volant seed vectors, and as a nurse plant, facilitating the establishment of woody species in abandoned Amazon pastures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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