J Syst Evol ›› 2012, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (1): 25-35.

• Research Articles •

### Coexistence and geographical distribution of Leguminosae in an area of Atlantic forest in the semi-arid region of Brazil

1Jacira R. LIMA 2Vidal F. MANSANO* 3Francisca S. ARAÚJO

1. 1(Escola Nacional de Botânica Tropical, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22460-030, Brazil)
2(Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22460-030, Brazil)
3(Universidade Federal do Ceará, Campus do Pici, Bloco 906, Fortaleza, CE 60455-760, Brazil)
• Received:2011-04-25 Published:2012-02-03

Abstract: Understanding the factors that affect plant species distribution and coexistence in areas with high plant species diversity is a challenge for ecologists. According to some authors, species occupy specific niches, but for others, species coexistence and geographical distribution patterns are random. Floristic composition of the family Leguminosae was studied on moist and dry slopes of the Baturité mountains in semi-arid northeastern Brazil and was compared with findings for other plant formations elsewhere in Brazil. Substantial floristic differences were found between the moist windward and dry leeward slopes of the Baturité mountains despite their close geographical proximity. The leeward slope was slightly more diverse than the windward slope. Similarity analyses showed that the windward face is floristically allied to the Amazon forest, whereas the leeward slope is similar to other dry-area formations of northeastern Brazil, such as thorny woodland (caatinga) and seasonal forests. The strong floristic differences that were observed between the windward and leeward slopes corroborate the theory of ecological niche conservatism, which holds that species occurrence is closely linked to environmental factors, such as temperature and precipitation.