Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 17–39 | Cite as

Diversity and occurrence of herbaceous communities in West African savannas in relation to climate, land use and habitat

  • Issouf Zerbo
  • Markus Bernhardt-Römermann
  • Oumarou Ouédraogo
  • Karen Hahn
  • Adjima Thiombiano


In the face of the current changes in land use and climate as well as habitat destruction, it is important to study herbaceous vegetation as an indicator of changes occurring in savanna ecosystems. We investigated the effects of climate, land use and habitat, both alone and in combination, on the diversity and occurrence of West African savanna herbaceous plant communities. Floristic data and environmental variables were sampled in Burkina Faso and subjected to ordination and indicator species analysis to explore the variation in nine vegetation types. Regression analyses showed that climate, land use, humidity gradient, soil fraction and vegetation structure discriminate herbaceous plant communities. Climate, habitat and their interaction had the greatest effect on the occurrence of these communities. Changes in species richness of the studied communities were mainly due to climate, land use and their interaction, which were more important for increasing rather than decreasing diversity. In all cases, climate conditions remained the most important environmental factor driving vegetation variation in West African savannas. Beside this, the effects of habitat degradation in interaction with land use and climatic conditions indicate land use to be a threat for the diversity of the herbaceous vegetation.


Herbaceous vegetation Plant species richness Threat Protected areas Burkina Faso Savannas 



The authors thank the DFG (German Research Foundation, BE 4143/2-1, and HA 6789/1-1) and the Ministry of Secondary and Higher Education of Burkina Faso (MESS and CIOSPB) for financial support. We also thank the Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, which permitted access to protected areas, as well as our field assistant for her help during the sampling phase. The experiments complied with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant Biology and EcologyUniversity Ouaga I Pr Joseph Ki-ZerboOuagadougou 03Burkina Faso
  2. 2.Institute of EcologyFriedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Geobotany, Institute for Ecology, Evolution and DiversityJ. W. Goethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany

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