The role of roadsides in conserving Cerrado plant diversity

ABSTRACT: The structure of Cerrado vegetation (sensu stricto) along roadsides was compared with that of protected areas (reserves). The superior stratum of reserves had 2.7 times more individuals and 1.4 times more species than on roadsides, while in the intermediate stratum there were 1.7 times more individuals and 25 % more species in reserves. Additionally, roadsides had a lower prevalence of tree species with thin bark and from forest physiognomies. In the intermediate stratum of roadsides there was a lower proportion of forest species, and also fewer species dispersed by animals. These differences occur, possibly because the vegetation of their edges is cleared during the construction of the roads and part of the soil is taken as landfill. Later, they suffer from a higher fire frequency and high coverage of exotic grasses (80 % average). Moreover, it is likely that the absence of some dispersers on roadsides may affect the recruitment of young plants. Despite these differences, the roadsides are able to maintain at least 70 % of tree species and 72 % of shrub species found in reserves. These results show that roadside vegetation can contribute to the conservation of the flora of Cerrado. This is particularly important considering that over 60 % of the original area of this ecosystem has been destroyed and that less than 4 % is protected. With 32,012 km of roads in the Cerrado alone, the roadside vegetation may represent a cumulative area of 96,000 of hectares, an area larger than many of the Cerrado’s national parks.

Category: Papers Conservation
Authors: Vasconcelos, P. B. et al.
Publication Year: 2014

Related links