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Ciencia e investigación agraria

versión On-line ISSN 0718-1620

Cienc. Inv. Agr. vol.38 no.1 Santiago abr. 2011 

Cien. Inv. Agr. 38(1):95-106. 2011




Horizontal structure and floristic composition of the shrubby-arboreal strata in forests planted to rehabilitate a degraded area of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, Rio do Janeiro

Estructura horizontal y composición florística del estrato arbóreo-arbustivo de repoblaciones establecidas para rehabilitar áreas degradadas en la Mata Atlántica Brasileña, Río de Janeiro


Joana Farias dos Santos1, Cristiane Roppa1, Schweyka Stanley Holanda de Oliveira2, and Ricardo Valcarcel1

1Depto. Ciencias Ambientais, Universidad Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ), BR 465, km 7, Seropédica, RJ, CEP: 23890-000, Brazil.
2Depto. Ingenieria Forestal, Universidad Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ), BR 465, km 7, Seropédica, RJ, CEP: 23890-000, Brazil.


The study was taken in a reclamation area where soil was removed up to 13 meters deep in 1979, near Itaguaí county, Brazil (23o 55' 07'' S, 43o 49' 73'' O). In 2007 the composition and horizontal structure of the shrubby-arboreal strata was evaluated in five 13 years old forest plantations with similar environment conditions. For rehabilitation, rustic pioneer species were used to guarantee a sustainable successional process, which depends on species selection and their functional complementarities. Treatments were: T0 (control); T1 (100 % of exotic species); T2 (52% of exotic species); T3 (50% exotic and 50% native); T4 (39% exotic and 61% native); and T5 (15% exotic and 85% native). Variables measured were height, DBH (≥ 3.0 cm), basal area, canopy cover, horizontal structure (density, dominance, frequency and importance value) Diversity Index (Shannon-Weaver) and Similarity Index (Jaccard), on four permanent plots of 5 x 15 m (75m2) per treatment. Fourteen species were planted in 1994 and 13 years later, 23 species of 21 genus and 11 botanical families were found. Treatment T5 had the greatest individual numbers and variability of canopy and density cover, T2 had the greatest species diversity and T4 the greatest height and individual basal area; on the other hand, T1 had the lowest individual number, density and mixture coefficient. All species combinations used were more efficient on rehabilitation than in the control area which didn't show any arboreal species in 28 years.

Keys words: Degradation area, mining, tree species, vegetal succession.


El estudio se realizó en un área de préstamo, donde se retiró durante el año 1979, una profundidad promedio de 13 metros, en el sector de Itaguaí, Brasil (23o 55' 07'' S, 43o 49' 73'' O). En el año de 2007 se evaluó la estructura horizontal y composición florística de los estratos arbóreos-arbustivos, en cinco repoblaciones forestales de 13 años, establecidas sobre ambientes similares. Se utilizó especies rústicas con función de pioneras en la fase inicial, para garantizar los procesos sucesionales sostenibles de la rehabilitación, que depende de la selección de especies y su complementariedad funcional. Los tratamientos (Ti) fueron: T0 (testigo); T1 (100% especie exótica); T2 (52% exótica y 48% nativas); T3 (50% exótica y 50% nativa); T4 (39% exótica y 61% nativa); y T5 (15% exótica y 85% nativa). Las variables medidas fueron: altura, DAP (≥ 3,0 cm), área basal, cobertura de copas, estructura horizontal (densidad, dominancia, frecuencia y valor de importancia), además de Índices diversidad (Shannon-Weaver) y similitud (Jaccard), en 4 parcelas permanentes de 5 x 15 m (75 m2) por tratamiento. Fueron plantadas 14 especies y encontradas 23 especies, distribuidas en 21 géneros de 11 familias botánicas. El T5 presentó más individuos y se destacó en las variables cobertura de copa y densidad, T2 mayor diversidad de especies y T4 mayor altura y área basal individual, en cambio el T1 presentó menor número de individuos, densidad y coeficiente de mezcla. Todas las combinaciones de especies fueron más eficientes en la rehabilitación cuando se compararon con el área testigo, que no presentó individuos arbóreos en 28 años.

Palabras clave: Áreas degradadas, especies rústicas, minería, sucesión.



Forest ecosystems are still being affected by an-thropic activities, where soil and subsoil withdrawal contributes to environmental degradation, with consequences for society, which represents deficiencies affecting future generations (Rodrigues et al, 2007; Valcarcel et al, 2007).

The Brazilian Atlantic Forest biome is a veg-etational complex from the combination of environmental effects from the ocean and the intricate Brazilian orography forming specific environments with wide endemism when affected, giving international relevance to the biome.

This includes part of 17 Brazilian States, located along the Atlantic coast, extending from Río Grande do Sul to Río Grande do Norte, occupying only 7% of the original extension (Fundagào SOS Mata Atlántica y INPE, 2009).

A wide range of economic factors generate environmental degradation, mining being one of them due to its strong operational procedures, which promote intense degradation in small sites (Pinheiro, 2004), removing soils and subsoils in different intensities and for diverse purposes, representing reclamation areas.

The challenge of modern engineering is the intervention of only indispensable areas which mitigates the environmental impacts collectively, using efficient and environmentally sustainable rehabilitation techniques (Valcarcel and Silva, 2000) and being able to rebuild ecosystems with similar functions to the original ecosystems (Bechara et al, 2007). The selection of appropriate species to trigger the successional processes is the first technological challenge of rehabilitation. The second is allowing individuals to build ecosystems with similar natural functions, forming stable and sustainable biodiversity communities (Bechara et al., 2007), where the phytosociological characterization enables the evaluation of the successional dynamics (Magurran, 1988).

The aim of this study was to evaluate the flo-ristic composition and horizontal structure of the shrubby-arboreal strata, after 13 years, in five old plantations used as biological rehabilitation measures for degraded areas, where the main difference was the combinations of rustic species and their synergic effects on the ecosystems construction.

Materials and methods

Area under study

The area is in the district of Isla de Madeira (23° 55' 07'' South latitude and 43° 49' 73'' West longitude), municipality of Itaguaí, Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where the Brazilian Atlantic Forest is dominant (Floresta Ombrófila Densa), separated from the other biomass by the ocean (270 degrees) and mangroves (90 degrees).

The climate is "Aw" tropical hot and humid (rainy summer and dry winter), presenting an annual average maximum temperature in February (25.7 oC) and minimum temperature in July (19.6 °C), according to the Koopen classification. The highest precipitation occurs between December and January, sometimes reaching March, with a total of 1,500 mm/year (RJ, 1996).

Within the area under study (10.81 ha), 1.4 x106 m3 of substrate were exploited during 1977 and 1979 for the construction of Retro-Puerto de Itaguaí, with a mean depth of 13 m of subsoil from the geological formation "Serra dos Órgáos", with mineralogical classification composed by Biotite-Hornblende-granite, clayey texture and massive structure (Brazil, 1983). The predominant soils surrounding the area under study are low fertile Argissolos (UFRRJ, 1993).

The relief of the area was mechanically changed during the exploitation (1977-1979) and reconfigured by erosive processes (1980-1993), as no conservationist interventions were present (Neves, 2004). The physical-biological measures were implanted in 1994 (beds with organic substrate of invading herbaceous species) as well as biological measures (plant beds).


The species were produced from the same matrices, cultivated in identical conditions of forest nurseries, planted in holes (0.40 x 0.40 x 0.40 m) with 2 litres of hardened bovine manure, with shed heights between 0.20 and 0.30 m, and plant bed density of 2,020 plants/ha (UFRRJ, 1993).

14 species were used; four exotic forest tropical Fabaceae, seven native pioneer species and three secondary native species, distributed among the families Fabaceae, Myrtaceae, Big-noniaceae, Cecropiaceae, Anacardiaceae.

Each treatment combined a group of arboreal species with different functions and habits (UFRRJ, 1993) (Table 1), where T0 (control) remained without any conservationist intervention; T1 was maintained 100% with one exotic species; T2 with 52% exotic species (3 species) and 48% native species (5 species); T3 with 50% exotic species (2 species) and 50% native species (2 species ); T4 39% exotic species (2 species) and 61% native species (4 species); T5 15°% exotic species (1 species) and 85% native species (7 species). Treatments 2, 3 and 4 presented a similar number of exotic and native species, T2 had a semi-decidua species (Caesalpinia ferrea Mart) and two slow growing species (C. ferrea and Tabebuia umbellata (Sonder) Landwith) (Lorenzi, 2002). This variation is the difference of T3 and T4, where T3 presented all the decidua and fast growing species (Lorenzi, 2002), while T4 had an evergreen species (Inga laurina) and two semi-decidua species (Piptadenia gonoacantha Mart. J.F. Macbr. and Psidium guajava L). T5 differed from T1 by the reduced number of exotic species and the high number of native species.

Experimental sampling

The experimental area (6,250 m2) was established in the interior of the populations, within the reclamation area, in 25 x 50 m plots (1,250 m2), subdivided in four permanent 5 x 15 m sub plots (75 m2). The control area had the same area, but without plant beds. All the plots presented similar litolic, hydro-geo-environmental characteristics, restricting other variables that eventually may affect the rehabilitation of the reclamation area.

Floristic composition

The floristic studies and the horizontal structure of the shrubby-arboreal strata were made between August and September, 2007. All the individuals planted and/or regenerated were surveyed, with a trunk circumference equal to or greater than 10 cm, at breast height. They were recorded (labelled with aluminium plates) and identified by the classification system APG II (2003).

Characterization of the horizontal structure

The circumference at breast height was obtained with a dendrometric ribbon and the total height of the plants was obtained with a 7 m retractile rod. The mean canopy diameter was determined from the average between the highest and lowest canopy projection, with the last variable used for the estimation of the total cover index (Greig-Smith, 1964). The phytosociological parameters (DA, DR, FA, FR, ADo, RDo, VC, VC (%), IV, IV (%)), the Shannon-Weaver Diversity indexes and the Jaccard Likelihood Index were calculated using the software Mata Nativa 2 (Universidad Federal de Vigosa, Brazil, 2006) and electronic worksheets.

Statistical analysis

A complete randomized design to evaluate treatments as well as the Tukey Test, at 5% likelihood between means was used. The analysis was made with the software SAEG 9.1 (Uni-versidade Federal de Vigosa, Vigosa, 2007) using the procedures described in Ribeiro Junior (2001).

Results and discussion

Floristic composition

There were no forest species in the control area after the subsoil was abandoned to the environment action for 28 years, where all the processes affecting the site construction and/or degradation interfere freely. Small herbaceous species usually colonize for short periods and disappear with the geodynamics of the erosive processes of the system, following the inertial tendency of degradation.

In the areas planted with 14 species in 1994, 23 shrubby-arboreal species were observed, with 11 species from the initial plant bed (same individuals and/or descendents) and 12 colonizing banks of the natural propagules of the environment, as the area was not enriched. These were distributed in 21 genera, 12botanical families and 276 individuals, in 13years (Table 2). In 2001, there were only 5 families with DAP ≥1 cm (Neves, 2004), showing that both biodiversity and rehabilitation sustainability increased during the following 6 years.

The family Fabaceae (11 species) presented the highest richness, with 239 individuals (86.59%), followed by Bignoniaceae with only 2 individuals (0.73%). In 2001, Neves (2004) observed the predominance of Fabaceae, describing that they act permanently in the ecosystems construction from degraded environments. These data are repeated in disturbed ecosystems (soils chemically poor and with physical features similar to the original soils) from the Atlantic Forest, according to the observations by Silva Jardim (Carvalho, 2006).

The distribution of the species by botanical families showed an ecosystem simplification after 13 years, and there was only one species per family in 10 families found, with a total of 35 individuals (12.68%) of the individuals surveyed.

Treatment T5 presented the highest number of plants (109) and density (3,633 plants /ha); T2 presented the highest number of species and genera (Table 3). Both treatments had 8 species planted since the beginning. T1 had only one species in the plant bed, allowing the plantation of 8 individuals with low density (267 plants/ ha) (Table 3).

The diversity of native species in the initial phase of the plantation may have allowed functional interactions among species, offering eco-physiological conditions able to promote emergence properties, which are enough to shelter demanding species, as all the other geo-envi-ronmental conditions were similar among treatments, as well as the offering propagule conditions. The absence of shrubby-arboreal species in T0 reinforces this thesis. The environmental heterogeneity created by the cluster of species implanted in the treatments may have contributed to increase the synergic effect of the ecosystems construction, from the influences of their biotic components on the physical medium, and from this medium to the biotic medium and to the species diversity, as a higher diversity affects reproduction, recruitment, specialization, and division of the resources (Jones et al., 1997; Ruschel et al., 2009).

The relation of intra-specific competence on the same T1 species (homogeneous) may have contributed to the eradication from the ecosystem after 13 years, reducing the number of species, genera and families, as well as reducing the density of the floristic composition.

Characterization of the horizontal structure

The treatments presented differences in height, DAP, basal area and canopy cover, which shows that, in addition to the floristic composition, there were differences in the horizontal structures (Table 4), regardless of the high internal heterogeneity. The differences observed may represent complementary functions in the ecosystem development, as canopies with different dimensions restrict the entrance of energy and rain management, affecting water entrance, management and retention, factors that contribute to the processes of soil formation, in addition to reducing the erosive processes, volumes of surface runoff and organic matter offered to the substrate surface (Lepsch, 2002).

The canopy structure is also responsible for forest dynamics, which determine the coexistence of species (Mori and Takeda, 2004). T5 presented a higher canopy cover, affecting the impact management of rain cinematic energy, humidity and deposition of fallen leaves on the surface of the forest floor, which might affect the entrance and amount of newly established individuals.

T4 had a higher height (8.48 m), DAP (11.98 cm) and basal area, compared to T1, which obtained lower height (3.91 m), DAP (5.15 cm) and individual basal area (0.0024 m2).

80% of the fast growing species were used in treatment T4 (Lorenzi, 2002; Carvalho, 2003; Lorenzi et al, 2003): A. auriculiformis Sandw Acacia mangium Wild, I. laurina, P. gonoacan-tha and P. guajava; and 20% of the extremely fast: Clitoria fairchildiana Howard (Lopes and Piña-Rodrigues, 1997; Lorenzi, 2002; Carvalho, 2003; Lorenzi et al., 2003).

The higher DAP and individual basal area in T4 are explained by the presence of the species A. mangiun and A. auriculiformis, along with the fast growing DAP native species, which suggests a higher adaptation to the initial unfavorable conditions. This confirms observations from authors on rehabilitation of degraded areas (Franco et al, 1992; Lorenzi et al, 2003), regarding their association with micorrizic fungi from bacteria of the genus Rhizobium sp (Faria et al., 1997).

The individual behaviour of the species, according to Jones et al. (1997) reflects the two ecosystems, where the survival mechanisms through differentiated exploration of the ecosystems resources, represent different offerings of environmental attributes to the environment, which improves its development. The use of a few botanical species in the rehabilitation may inhibit the processes of vegetal succession (Kageyama et al, 1994).

The canopy cover for T5 (493.48%) differs from T1 (7.110%) by the implanted species and their adaptation to the environment, causing a differentiated offering of environmental functions: pollinating organisms, dispersers and natural predators, which is coherent with the literature (Kageyama and Gandara, 2000; Moraes, 2006).

In T1, only one species represented 87.89% of IV, in comparison to the other treatments, two species represented 50.37% (T2); 66.95% (T3); 50.46% (T4) and 50.42% (T5) of IV. The density was 266.7; 1633.3; 1833.3; 1833.3 and 3633.3 individuals per hectare for T1, T2, T3, T4 y T5, respectively (Table 5).

The species with the highest density in the treatment were: Cecropia pachystachya (233.3 ind/ ha, T1); P. gonoacantha (500 ind/ha, T2); Mimosa caesalpiniaefolia (633.3 ind/ha, T3); I. laurina (766.7 ind/ha, T4) and; M. caesalpiniaefolia (1,500 ind/ha, T5). Their IV in their treatments corresponded to 263.66 (T1); 95.78 (T2); 135.40

(T3); 77.27 (T4) and 85.04 (T5), which shows their adaptation in the treatments and, in this regard, they are different in the offerings of environmental attributes, as the other environmental factors are similar in all the areas under study.

The low density of C. pachystachya in the treatments, in comparison to all the species, does not reflect its higher IV among the native species, a typical successional procedure of restoring disturbed ecosystem processes in the Atlantic Forest (Cortines and Valcarcel, 2009).

The Jaccard Index with values of 0.55 (T1), 0.79 (T2), 0.83 (T3), 0.80 (T4) and 0.75 (T5), shows a high similarity among the cluster of species, however, they are within the range observed for the disturbed ecosystems in the region under study (Carvalho et al., 2006), ranging between 0.05 and 0.79.

The Shannon-Weaver Diversity Index recorded is 0.38; 2.01; 1.61; 1.84 and 1.64 for T1, T2, T3, T4 e T5, respectively, indicating a higher diversity in T2. This value is considered medium for natural ecosystems (Nascimento et al., 2001) and high for the Brazilian Amazonia, which registers a value of 1.03 in 10-year old populations (Parrota et al., 1997). This is probably due to the wide diversity of species from the biome studied, facilitating the recruitment and fit of species to the different degradation types.

These results show that the adequate selection of the species for the rehabilitation of degraded areas is essential, considering that the wider the old plantation diversity is, in order to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems, the more heterogeneous the forest, diversified the horizontal structure and sustainable the rehabilitation processes will be.

After the five clusters of forest species and the control area had survived 13 years, an increased floristic composition was observed with the inclusion of 12 species, where the family Fabaceae was the most abundant. The treatments are efficient in comparison to the control area, which did not present bushlike-forest size individuals in 28 years, assuring sustainability tostudy. rehabilitation.


Thanks to the Post graduate Program in Environmental Sciences of La Universidade Federal Rural do Río de Janeiro and Universidade do State of Bahía (UNEB) for the support to this study.


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Received October 29, 2009. Accepted February 1, 2011.

Corresponding author:

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