From Forest to Farmland: Species Richness Patterns of Trees and Understorey Plants along a Gradient of Forest Conversion in Southwestern Cameroon
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- Bobo, K.S., Waltert, M., Sainge, N.M. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2006) 15: 4097. doi:10.1007/s10531-005-3368-6
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Vegetation surveys were carried out at 24 sampling stations distributed over four land use types, namely near-primary forest, secondary forest, agroforestry systems and annual crop lands in the northeastern part of the Korup region, Cameroon, to assess the impact of forest conversion on trees and understorey plants. Tree species richness decreased significantly with increasing level of habitat modification, being highest and almost equal in secondary and near-primary forests. Understorey plant species richness was significantly higher in annual crop lands than in other land use types. The four land use types differed in tree and understorey plant species composition, the difference being smaller among natural forests. Tree and understorey plant density differed significantly between habitat types. Density was strongly correlated with species richness, both for trees and understorey plants. Five tree and 15 understorey plant species showed significant responses to habitat. A 90% average drop in tree basal area from forest to farmland was registered. Our findings support the view that agroforestry systems with natural shade trees can serve to protect many forest species, but that especially annual crop lands could be redesigned to improve biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes of tropical rainforest regions.