Does phenology distinguish bitter and sweet African bush mango trees (Irvingia spp., Irvingiaceae)?
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This phenological analysis of bitter and sweet bush mango trees is part of their biosystematics. It supports the species distinction hypothesis postulated by Harris (Bull J Bot Nat Belg 65(1–2):143–196, 1996 ) and Lowe et al. (Mol Ecol 9:831–841, 2000 ).
African Bush Mango trees are priority food trees in Sub-Saharan Africa. The unclear distinction between bitter and sweet fruited trees is still subject to taxonomic debate. This hinders their effective use and conservation programmes. This study investigates differences in phenological behaviour between bitter and sweet fruited populations and their taxonomic implications. Monthly phenological description data on seven populations of bitter or sweet bush mangos across Benin and Togo were used to assess within and between mango type phenological diversity, to discriminate bitter and sweet trees and to evaluate their responses to environmental factors. The phenological states differentiating bitter and sweet trees were identified and individual trees were classified based on the discriminating phenological characters. Finally, phenological variation was analyzed with time of the year, soil type, type of bush mango tree, and climatic zone. Phenological diversity varies significantly among populations. Bitter and sweet trees have consistently different phenological states. Bitter trees have a lower phenological diversity for all phenological phases throughout the year compared to sweet trees, possibly due to their limited distribution range in the study area. The tree types also differ in their reproductive responses to environmental factors, but did not respond differently to soils. These results support the hypothesis that bitter and sweet trees represent different taxa and we suggest for efficient conservation purpose to consider them as different species.
KeywordsAdaptation Ecology Domestication Irvingia Phenological states Species distinction
Author contribution statement
Romaric Vihotogbé proposed the research idea, led the field works, analyzed the data, proposed the manuscript and improved it based on the co-authors’ comments. Ronald G. Van Den Berg influenced the field work design and was thoroughly involved in the statistical analysis. Frans Bongers, Brice Sinsin and Marc Sosef validated the research idea and methodology end provided specific and significant comments on the manuscript. In addition Brice Sinsin was involved in planning and execution of field works. After the first submission, the manuscript was thoroughly revisited by each of the co-authors based on reviewers’ comments and Romaric Vihotogbé coordinated this activity. We all agree on this version being re-submitted.
The Dutch Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC, the Netherlands) funded this research and the International Foundation for Science provided significant financial support for fieldworks (IFS/Grant No: D/4672-1, Stockholm, Sweden for Romaric Vihotogbé). We are grateful to those two institutions and to their donors. We are also grateful to all local farmers that freely permitted us to study their trees. Prof. Dr. Ir. Glèlè Kakaï Romain (FSA/UAC, Benin) advised during sampling design and Wilfried Bonou (MSc: (FSA/UAC, Benin) provided assistance in the statistical analyses and we thank them in a very particular way. Lastly, the “Unanimous Reviewer 1” of this paper provided important comments and direct contributions to the paper and we are thankful to him.
Conflict of interest
I (the corresponding author), confirm that there is no conflict of interest of any kind (commercial, scientific/co-authorship) related to this article. Also, this is an original research paper that has never been published or even submitted for publication to any other journal. All the co-authors agreed on this version being re-submitted to TREES.
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