Elevation patterns of woody taxa richness in the evergreen Afromontane vegetation of Ethiopia

Abstract

Plant species distributions show patterns along elevation gradients. Regardless of the diverse Afromontane vegetation in Ethiopia (AFE), studies of elevation patterns of woody plants are limited and they are restricted to small areas or single/few Mountains. Moreover, there is no general consensus on the patterns of woody taxa distribution by elevation. The objectives of this study were to examine the elevation patterns of woody taxa richness and their relationship with elevation in the AFE. Data were collected and compiled from the Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea (Vols. 1–7). About 5918 plant species of 243 families were examined and their elevational distributions were recorded. The distributional ranges of woody taxa were aggregated at 19 points (sites) at 100 m intervals starting from 1500 to 3400 m a.s.l. Single-factor analysis of variance (one-way ANOVA) was used to test the hypothesis that mean species richness of woody taxa decreases from the lower to the upper limit of AFE. Simple linear correlation and regression were used to show the relationships of woody taxa richness with elevation. We documented the presence of 505 woody taxa (441 species, 31 subspecies and 33 varieties) representing 267 genera and 90 families in the AFE. In terms of habit, 279 taxa are shrubs, 178 are trees and 48 are lianas. The distribution of woody taxa (trees, shrubs and lianas) showed a slight increase at the lower portion and a monotonic decline with increasing elevation. Species richness of trees, shrubs and lianas was negatively and significantly correlated with elevation (r = −0.985, −0.984, −0.981, respectively; all p < 0.001). Our hypothesis was accepted because mean richness significantly decreased from the lower to the upper limit of AFE (p < 0.001). Generally, monotonic patterns of decline in richness were observed for trees, shrubs and lianas. The contribution of shrubs to total richness increased with increasing elevation whereas that of trees and lianas decreased.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the National Herbarium and Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute for availing various resources. All expenses of the first author were covered by the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute. Anonymous reviewers are also highly acknowledged for their comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Abiyot Berhanu.

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Project funding: This work was supported by the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute.

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Corresponding editor: Zhu Hong

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Berhanu, A., Woldu, Z. & Demissew, S. Elevation patterns of woody taxa richness in the evergreen Afromontane vegetation of Ethiopia. J. For. Res. 28, 787–793 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11676-016-0350-y

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Keywords

  • Plant elevational distribution
  • Lianas
  • Shrubs
  • Trees