Resource exploitation in lowland tropical forests is increasing and causing loss of biodiversity. Effective evaluation and management of the impacts of development on tropical forests requires appropriate assessment and monitoring tools. We propose the use of 0.1-ha multi-scale, modified Whittaker plots (MWPs) to assess and monitor vegetation in lowland tropical rainforests. We established MWPs at 4 sites to: (1) describe and compare composition and structure of the sites using MWPs, (2) compare these results to those of 1-ha permanent vegetation plots (BDPs), and (3) evaluate the ability of MWPs to detect changes in populations (statistical power). We recorded more than 400 species at each site. Species composition among the sites was distinctive, while mean abundance and basal area was similar. Comparisons between MWPs and BDPs show that they record similar species composition and abundance and that both perform equally well at detecting rare species. However, MWPs tend to record more species, and power analysis studies show that MWPs were more effective at detecting changes in the mean number of species of trees ≥ 10 cm in diameter at breast height (dbh) and in herbaceous plants. Ten MWPs were sufficient to detect a change of 11% in the mean number of herb species, and they were able to detect a 14% change in the mean number of species of trees ≥ 10 cm dbh. The value of MWPs for assessment and monitoring is discussed, along with recommendations for improving the sampling design to increase power.
- Modified Whittaker plots
- Tropical forests