Changes in forest structure and composition in a successional tropical dry forest
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We describe changes in forest structure and floristic composition of three successional stages for Mata Seca State Park, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, through the measurement of all trees greater than 5 cm of diameter at breast height (DBH) of 18 permanent plots (6 per stage) for early, intermediate, and late successional stages of a tropical dry forest during a 5-year period. Using this information, we calculated the Importance Value Index (IVI), Holdridge Complexity Index, Jaccard Similarity Coefficient, and Shannon Diversity Index for each stage of succession. The floristic composition and structure of the successional stages expressed by the Holdridge Complexity Index, showed that complexity increases gradually as we advance through the successional stages, while the Shannon Diversity Index indicated that species diversity was higher in the intermediate stage of succession. The Jaccard Similarity Coefficients showed that the intermediate and late successional stages had high similarity, whereas the early successional stage had low similarity with these two successional stages. Mortality rates were higher in the early stage, especially in stems with smaller diameters (5-10cm). This information contributes to the dissemination of important knowledge for the conservation of the tropical dry forests of Brazil, which are the most threatened ecosystems in this country and, at the same time, the least studied.