Plant Ecology

, Volume 192, Issue 2, pp 251–269 | Cite as

Zonation of forest vegetation and soils of Mount Cameroon, West Africa

  • John Proctor
  • Ian D. Edwards
  • Robert W. Payton
  • Laszlo Nagy


Mount Cameroon is an active volcano in a wet part of West Africa. The forest vegetation and associated soils on its southern slopes were studied in 1989, 1991 and 1995 in coupled 0.25 ha plots at altitudes of 180, 600, 1,100, 1,800 and 2,180 m. All lianas and trees >10 cm dbh were enumerated and their structural features quantified. The forests were of large stature throughout. The strangling Schefflera species made a substantial contribution to the very high basal areas at 1,800 m. The associated soils were dominated by andisols derived from volcanic ash that showed a distinct increase with altitude in soil organic matter and total N attributed to lower temperatures. Soil pH, exchangeable K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, effective cation-exchange capacity and percentage base saturation showed very marked increases explained by the influence of recent volcanic ashfalls. Available N and P showed less distinct trends with altitude. Although there is a large decrease in tree species richness with altitude, forest stand growth (as compared on a basal area basis) does not appear to be limited by soil fertility or temperature. The forest line (altitude treeline and extensive gaps below it) appear to be controlled by periodic volcanic activity, ashfalls and lava flows, which can destroy existing forest through soil burial and fire effects and inhibit regrowth on bare lava flows and deep deposits of volcanic ash.


Altitudinal zonation Montane rainforest Mount Cameroon Tropical soils 



The staff of Limbe Botanic Garden, especially Mark Bovey and N. Ndam, are thanked for their help with this study. Operation Raleigh are thanked for their logistic support in setting up the plots in 1989. We are also grateful for the support of the ODA Forestry Research Programme who funded the continuation of the soil studies in 1991 through a research grant and for the support of the Soil Survey and Land Research Centre, Silsoe, UK who initially allowed one of the authors to participate in 1989. Thanks are also due to Robert Payton’s research assistant, Stuart Ashworth, who carried out some of the soil analyses at Newcastle University and to Moukat Appolinaire for co-operation and analytical facilities that he extended to us at the Ekona Soil Research Station, Buea.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Proctor
    • 1
  • Ian D. Edwards
    • 2
  • Robert W. Payton
    • 3
  • Laszlo Nagy
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingScotland, UK
  2. 2.Royal Botanic Garden EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK
  3. 3.School of Agriculture, Food and Rural DevelopmentUniversity of Newcastle-upon-TyneNewcastleUK
  4. 4.EcoScience ScotlandGlasgowScotland, UK

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