Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 8, pp 1363–1374 | Cite as

Habitat specificity and diversity of tree species in an African wet tropical forest

  • George B. ChuyongEmail author
  • David Kenfack
  • Kyle E. Harms
  • Duncan W. Thomas
  • Richard Condit
  • Liza S. Comita


Niche differentiation with respect to habitat has been hypothesized to shape patterns of diversity and species distributions in plant communities. African forests have been reported to be relatively less diverse compared to highly diversed regions of the Amazonian or Southeast Asian forests, and might be expected to have less niche differentiation. We examined patterns of structural and floristic differences among five topographically defined habitats for 494 species with stems ≥1 cm dbh in a 50-ha plot in Korup National Park, Cameroon. In addition, we tested for species–habitat associations for 272 species (with more than 50 individuals in the plot) using Torus translation randomization tests. Tree density and basal area were lowest in areas with negative convexity, which contained streams or were inundated during rainy periods and highest in moist well-drained habitats. Species composition and diversity varied along the topographical gradient from low flat to ridge top habitats. The low depression and low flat habitats were characterized by high diversity and similar species composition, relative to slopes, high gullies and ridge tops. Sixty-three percent of the species evaluated showed significant positive associations with at least one of the five habitat types. The majority of associations were with low depressions (75 species) and the fewest with ridge tops (8 species). The large number of species–habitat associations and the pronounced contrast between low (valley) and elevated (ridgetop) habitats in the Korup plot shows that niche differentiation with respect to edaphic variables (e.g., soil moisture, nutrients) contributes to local scale tree species distributions and to the maintenance of diversity in African forests.


Habitat specificity Tree diversity Topographically defined habitats Torus translation test Tropical forest Korup forest dynamics plot Cameroon 



We thank the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Cameroon for permission to conduct the field program in the Korup National Park. The Korup FDP is affiliated with the Center for Tropical Forest Science, a global network of large-scale demographic tree plots. Analyses were partially supported by U.S. National Science Foundation award DEB-9806828 to the Center for Tropical Forest Science of the Smithsonian Institution. KEH acknowledges support from NSF (DEB 0211004 and OISE 0314581) that contributed toward the completion of this manuscript. LSC acknowledges support from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • George B. Chuyong
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Kenfack
    • 2
  • Kyle E. Harms
    • 3
  • Duncan W. Thomas
    • 4
  • Richard Condit
    • 5
  • Liza S. Comita
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Plant and Animal SciencesUniversity of BueaBueaCameroon
  2. 2.Center For Tropical Forest ScienceArnold Arboretum, Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  5. 5.Center for Tropical Forest ScienceSmithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panama
  6. 6.National Center for Ecological Analysis & SynthesisSanta BarbaraUSA

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