Vegetation structure, dominance patterns and height growth in an Afromontane forest, Southern Africa

  • Sylvanus MensahEmail author
  • Anthony Egeru
  • Achille Ephrem Assogbadjo
  • Romain Glèlè Kakaï
Original Paper


Information on forest structure is fundamentally important to track successional vegetation dynamics for efficient forest management. This study reports on vegetation characteristics, dominance patterns and species height growth in a northern mistbelt forest type in South Africa. Common alpha-diversity indices (species richness and Shannon–Weiner diversity), structural vegetation parameters (tree density and basal area), and species importance value index were used. Size class distribution and height–diameter allometry were further examined for the overall stand and most important species. Stem densities (472.0 ± 43.5 and 605.3 ± 28.1 trees ha−1 for ≥ 5 cm to < 10 cm and ≥ 10 cm dbh (diameter at breast height) classes, respectively) and basal area values (1.99 ± 0.19 and 48.07 ± 3.46 m2 ha−1, respectively) are comparable to other Afromontane forests in East Africa. The overall stand showed an inverted-J shaped distribution pattern which is a typical feature of stand size class distribution in most natural forests. Most ecologically important species also exhibited an inverted-J shaped distribution pattern, suggesting good regeneration and recruitment potential. There were significant differences in species on height, reflecting species-specific height growth patterns, possibly a result of intrinsic growth potential and competitive interactions. The present study suggests that conservation and management policies, including protection of surrounding land uses against fire, contribute to maintaining a successful recovery of these forests. However, it should be noted that these forests may be experiencing relatively slow dynamic flux as a result of the over-mature state of some trees with several years under relatively strict protection.


Diversity Population structure Species composition Size class distribution 



The data used in this study were collected during the first author’s doctoral research field work, co-financed by the African Forestry Forum and the National Research Foundation of South Africa through the “Catchman Letaba” project. The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for the comments on the first version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvanus Mensah
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anthony Egeru
    • 2
  • Achille Ephrem Assogbadjo
    • 1
    • 3
  • Romain Glèlè Kakaï
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d’Estimations Forestières, Faculté des Sciences AgronomiquesUniversité d’Abomey-CalaviCotonouBenin
  2. 2.Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in AgricultureMakerere UniversityWandegeya, KampalaUganda
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Ecologie Appliquée, Faculté des Sciences AgronomiquesUniversité d’Abomey-CalaviCotonouBenin

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