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Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 1353–1374 | Cite as

Diversity Patterns in the Flora of the Campo-Ma’an Rain Forest, Cameroon: Do Tree Species Tell it All?

  • M. G. P. Tchouto
  • W. F. De Boer
  • J. J. F. E. De Wilde
  • L. J. G. Van der Maesen
Article

Abstract

This study describes diversity patterns in the flora of the Campo-Ma’an rain forest, in south Cameroon. In this area, the structure and composition of the forests change progressively from the coastal forest on sandy shorelines through the lowland evergreen forest rich in Caesalpinioideae with Calpocalyx heitzii and Sacoglottis gabonensis, to the submontane forest at higher elevations and the mixed evergreen and semi-deciduous forest in the drier Ma’an area. We tested whether there is a correlation between tree species diversity and diversity of other growth forms such as shrubs, herbs, and lianas in order to understand if, in the context of African tropical rain forest, tree species diversity mirrors the diversity of other life forms or strata. Are forests that are rich in tree species also rich in other life forms? To answer this question, we analysed the family and species level floristic richness and diversity of the various growth forms and forest strata within 145 plots recorded in 6 main vegetation types. A comparison of the diversity within forest layers and within growth forms was done using General Linear Models. The results showed that tree species accounted for 46% of the total number of vascular plant species with DBH ≥1 cm, shrubs/small trees 39%, climbers 14% and herbs less than 1%. Only 22% of the diversity of shrubs and lianas could be explained by the diversity of large and medium sized trees, and less than 1% of herb diversity was explained by tree diversity. The shrub layer was by far the most species rich, with both a higher number of species per plot, and a higher Shannon diversity index, than the tree and the herb layer. More than 82% of tree species, 90% of shrubs, 78% of lianas and 70% of herbaceous species were recorded in the shrub layer. Moreover, shrubs contributed for 38% of the 114 strict and narrow endemic plant species recorded in the area, herbs 29%, trees only 20% and climbers 11%. These results indicate that the diversity of trees might not always reflect the overall diversity of the forest in the Campo-Ma’an area, and therefore it may not be a good indicator for the diversity of shrubs and herbaceous species. Furthermore, this suggests that biodiversity surveys based solely on large and medium sized tree species (DBH ≥0cm) are not an adequate method for the assessment of plant diversity because other growth form such as shrubs, climbers and herbs are under-represented. Therefore, inventory design based on small plots of 0.1 ha, in which all vascular plants with DBH ≥1 cm are recorded, is a more appropriate sampling method for biodiversity assessments than surveys based solely on large and medium sized tree species.

Keywords

Biodiversity Cameroon Campo-Ma’an Central Africa Conservation Endemic species Forest refuge Plant diversity Tropical rain forest 

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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. G. P. Tchouto
    • 1
  • W. F. De Boer
    • 2
  • J. J. F. E. De Wilde
    • 3
  • L. J. G. Van der Maesen
    • 3
  1. 1.Limbe Botanic GardenLimbeCameroon
  2. 2.Resource Ecology GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Biosystematics GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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