Regional abundance and diversity of plants in the northwestern Andes Mountains in response to abiotic variables
Tropical restoration is becoming increasingly important as a worldwide effort to mitigate habitat loss and degradation. An understanding of the biotic and abiotic factors that shape patterns of diversity is essential to guiding effective efforts for restoring biodiversity. The Chocó is a highly biodiverse, yet poorly studied forest system in northwestern South America, with very little original habitat remaining due to high rates of deforestation in this region. This paper presents findings from a preliminary investigation of the species diversity index to assist a local organization, Fundación para la Conservación de los Andes Tropicales (FCAT), which was undertaken to assist with its botanical inventory and habitat restoration work. More particularly, the research focused on relating patterns of plant diversity to abiotic environmental variables. While assisting Dr. Ricardo Perdiz and the FCAT team with plant identification and mapping in a 125 x 125 m parcel of intact primary restoration rainforest on the FCAT Reserve, I collected data on soil type and pH, slope, and diameter at breast height (DBH). Through my analyses, I examined associations between these abiotic variables and plant species richness and conclude that soil type and slope were closely correlated with species abundance and diversity. Although soil pH fluctuated with soil type, there was no association between species richness and soil pH, perhaps due to a small sampling effort of pH relative to plot size. Overall, abiotic factors influence species richness and should be prioritized in future studies to both improve biological restoration efforts and to understand basic patterns of biodiversity.