Unexpected effects of pigeon-peas (Cajanus cajan) in the restoration of rupestrian fields.
Several degraded areas can be found along the Highway MG-010 that crosses the Espinhaço Mountain Biosphere Reserve in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Restoration by planting the legume Cajanus cajan was implemented in some of these areas. The present study compares plant species richness, diversity, abundance, equitability, similarity, and soil composition between restored and non-restored areas, in an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of C. cajan in the restoration process in the mountain environment. Each treatment (restored and non-restored) had four sampling areas, each with three 300 m2plots. We counted and identified every individual plant found within these plots. We also collected soil from the superficial layer (0-10 cm) of each sampling area in both treatments. The areas where C. cajan was planted revealed lower species richness, diversity, and plant abundance. The soil of these areas also contained higher levels of Phosphorus and Magnesium. Plant equitability and similarity between plots and other soil components (pH, Nitrogen, Aluminum, Calcium, Potassium, H+Al, sum of bases - SB, cation exchange capacity - CTC, base saturation - V%, aluminum saturation - M%) did not differ between the two treatments. Contrary to the expectations, soil enhancement in the quartzitic soil poor in nutrients in the rupestrian fields can facilitate the invasion by exotic plants, which are not adapted to the lack of nutrients. As it appears, the use of C. cajan in restoration projects represents a mistake and future restoration plans should avoid the use of exotic species, given that they may cause negative effects on the native plant community, as demonstrated here in the rupestrian fields.