Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 13, Issue 9, pp 1584–1597 | Cite as

Assessing adaptability and response of vegetation to glacier recession in the afro-alpine moorland terrestrial ecosystem of Rwenzori Mountains

  • Tonny J. Oyana
  • Bob R. NakilezaEmail author


The objective of this study was to explore vegetation adaptability in a changing afro-alpine moorland terrestrial ecosystem on Mt. Rwenzori and to determine whether there were any links with response of vegetation to glacier recession. We analyzed the composition and distribution of plant species in relation to soils, geomorphic processes, and landscape positions in the Alpine zone. To accomplish this objective, archival data sources and published reports for this ecosystem were reviewed. A field trip was conducted in 2010 to study in detail seven vegetation sampling plots that were systematically selected using GIS maps and a nested-quadrat sampling design framework along an altitudinal gradient in the lower and upper alpine zones. Using these sampling plots, 105 vegetation and 13 soil samples were assessed in the alpine zone. Soil samples were taken for laboratory testing and analysis. The results show statistically significant differences in pH, OM, N, P, Ca, Mg, and K pools between soils samples drawn from the lower and upper alpine sites (p < 0.0033). Furthermore, we observed a significant vegetation formation with numerous structural forms, but there was a limited diversity of species. The most significant forms included Alchemilla carpets, Bogs, Dendrosenecio woodland, and Scree slopes. The lower alpine area (3500–3900 masl) had a more diverse plant species than other areas, especially Alchemilla argyrophylla and Dendrosenecio adnivalis species that were evident due to well-drained deeper soils. The Alchemilla subnivalis were evident at a higher altitude of above 4000 masl. Shifts in the Astareceae (e.g. Senecio species) were particularly prominent even on recently deglaciated areas. The spatial variations of species distribution, structure, and composition suggest there are serious implications in terms of ecosystem adaptability, resilience, and stability that require further evaluation.


Alpine Plant species Species abundance Tropical afro-alpine ecosystems Afro-alpine moorland 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Spatial Analytics and Informatics Core, Department of Preventive MedicineThe University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphisUSA
  2. 2.Mountain Resource Centre, Department of Geography, Geo-informatics and Climate SciencesMakerere UniversityKampalaUganda

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