, Volume 373, Issue 1-2, pp 455-469
Date: 28 Jun 2013

Chemical soil factors influencing plant assemblages along copper-cobalt gradients: implications for conservation and restoration

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Abstract

Aims

Define the chemical factors structuring plant communities of three copper-cobalt outcrops (Tenke-Fungurume, Katangan Copperbelt, D. R. Congo) presenting extreme gradients.

Methods

To discriminate plant communities, 172 vegetation records of all species percentage cover were classified based on NMDS and the Calinski criterion. Soil samples were analyzed for 13 chemical factors and means compared among communities with ANOVA. Partial canonical correspondence analysis (pCCA) was used to determine amount of variation explained individually by each factor and site effect.

Results

Seven communities were identified. Six of the studied communities were related to distinct sites. Site effect (6.0 % of global inertia) was identified as the most important factor related to plant communities’ variation followed by Cu (5.5 %), pH (3.6 %) and Co (3.5 %). Unique contribution of site effect (3.8 %) was higher than that of Cu (1.1 %) and Co (1.0 %).

Conclusions

In restoration, not only Cu and Co contents will be important to maintain vegetation diversity, attention should also be given to co-varying factors potentially limiting toxicity of metals: pH, organic matter, Ca and Mn. Physical parameters were also identified as important in the creation of adequate conditions for diverse communities. Further studies should focus on the effect of physical parameters and geology.

Responsible Editor: Henk Schat.