To study the structure and composition of old-growth forest in the Saracá-Taquera National Forest near Porto Trombetas, Brazil, we established 36 0.25 ha plots and described the vegetation. We collected charcoal from the A2 soil horizon of each plot for radiocarbon dating. Although fires have been very rare in this forest during historic times, the presence of charcoal in these soils indicates fire at some earlier period. The ages (conventional radiocarbon age adjusted to 1997) of the charcoal ranged from 177 to 1547 years. These ages, however, did not correlate significantly with any of several measures of biodiversity or stand characteristics. The relative uniformity of the current old-growth forest indicates that either the prehistoric fires were of such low intensity that they had little long-term effect on the vegetation or that the present stands have progressed to near steady state.
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Vol. 33 • No. 3