Morphological trait variation and relationships of Afzelia africana Sm. caused by climatic conditions and anthropogenic disturbance in Benin (West Africa)

  • Thierry D. HouehanouEmail author
  • Kathleen Prinz
  • Frank Hellwig
  • Achille E. Assogbadjo
  • Jens Gebauer
  • Romain L. Glele Kakaï
  • Brice Sinsin
Research Article


Afzelia africana Sm. is a tree species found in different climatic conditions affected by chronic human disturbance. It is known that trees can respond to their environments by changing their morphological traits. Also, as plants store their reserves in fruits, seeds and leaves, long-lasting disturbance may impact morphological traits of fruits, seeds and leaves. Thus, in this study, we evaluated (1) the variation of morphological traits of A. africana according to climatic conditions and human disturbance, and (2) the relationships among morphological traits. Twelve morphological parameters based on fruits, seeds and leaflets were assessed across three climatic zones and compared for individuals in protected and disturbed landscapes. Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to evaluate the effects of climatic factors and disturbance. Highest values for fruit, seed and leaflet traits were observed in humid areas indicating for best performance under optimal conditions. Significant adverse effects of human disturbance were observed for traits in the humid and drier areas. The interaction between climatic conditions and disturbance was significant for most traits suggesting a climate-dependent effect of the disturbance on evaluated traits. Bioclimatic variables were thus identified as potential drivers of traits. Some significant and positive associations were observed among fruit and seed traits. These morphological trait variations are valuable insights to guide sustainable management and conservation of A. africana populations in different climatic zones and habitats types in Benin.


Morphological traits Climatic gradient Human disturbance Sustainable management Conservation 



Georg Forster Research Fellowship (HERMES) Ref 3.4—BEN—1163520—GFHERMES-P of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation and Grant for Junior Researchers” of the African-German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES) funded this research. We acknowledge the assistance of Carlos Ahoyo, Stanislas Zanvo, Aimé Djessou, Fréjus Houinato and Christian Adjahossou.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare on the content of manuscript and study undertaken.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Agricultural SciencesUniversity of Abomey CalaviCotonouRepublic of Benin
  2. 2.Institute for Ecology and Evolution, Professorship for Systematic Botany with Hausknecht Herbarium and Botanical GardenFriedrich-Schiller-University JenaJenaGermany
  3. 3.Laboratory of Ecology, Botany, and Plant Biology, Faculty of AgronomyUniversity of ParakouParakouRepublic of Benin
  4. 4.Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d’Estimations Forestières, Faculté des Sciences AgronomiquesUniversité d’Abomey CalaviCotonouRepublic of Benin
  5. 5.Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems with Special Focus on Horticulture, Faculty of Life SciencesRhine-Waal University of Applied SciencesKleveGermany
  6. 6.Landschaftspflegeverband Suedharz/Kyffhaeuser e.V.NordhausenGermany

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