J Syst Evol ›› 2012, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (5): 433-442.DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-6831.2012.00190.x

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Richness and diversity of Leguminosae in an altitudinal gradient in the tropical semi-arid zone 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:2011-07-02 Published:2012-06-04

Abstract: Many studies are based on the premise that, on a local scale, diversity is the result of ecological processes, whereas on a regional scale factors such as the topography, geology, hydrology, and historical and evolutionary events would influence this control. The Baturité Mountain Range (Ceará state), located in the Brazilian semi-arid zone, is considered an area of extreme importance for conservation with its vegetation varying with the altitude and slope (windward vs. leeward). On the windward (wet) slope, rainforest dominates, whereas the leeward (dry) slope is dominated by seasonal forests and thorny woodland. The aim of this study was to contribute to the knowledge of the patterns of richness and diversity of the family Leguminosae on a local scale (Baturité Mountain Range) as well as a regional scale (northeastern Brazil). The two slopes present quite distinct floras. The dry slope presents higher richness and diversity indices for Leguminosae than the wet slope. The highest diversity of Leguminosae in the dry areas did not corroborate the ideas of other studies carried out in neotropical forests (total flora) that the higher species richness was predicted for wet areas. The present study indicates that the historical and evolutionary processes influence the diversity patterns on a local scale (Baturité Mountain Range), as well as on a regional scale (Brazilian semi-arid). Our results reinforce the uniqueness of each portion of this area and its importance for conservation.

Key words: Fabaceae, rainforest, seasonal forests, species diversity, thorny woodland.