, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 1193-1217

The Banana Forests of Kilimanjaro: Biodiversity and Conservation of the Chagga Homegardens

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Abstract

Natural flora, vegetation, diversity and structure of 62 traditional coffee–banana plantations on Kilimanjaro were investigated and compared with the other vegetation formations on this volcano on basis of over 1400 plots following the method of Braun-Blanquet. The vegetation of the so-called Chagga homegardens belongs floristically to the formation of ruderal vegetation forming two main communities that are determined by altitude. These coffee–banana plantations maintain a high biodiversity with about 520 vascular plant species including over 400 non-cultivated plants. Most species (194) occurring in the Chagga homegardens are forest species, followed by 128 ruderal species, including 41 neophytes. Typical of the agroforestry system of the Chagga homegardens is their multilayered vegetation structure similar to a tropical montane forest with trees, shrubs, lianas, epiphytes and herbs. Beside relicts of the former forest cover, which lost most of their former habitats, there are on the other hand (apophytic) forest species, which were directly or indirectly favoured by the land use of the Chagga people. High demand of wood, the introduction of coffee varieties that are sun-tolerant and low coffee prizes on the world marked endanger this effective and sustainable system.