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Altitudinal gradients of tree species diversity and above-ground biomass on a small montane of Atlantic Central Africa

Gonmadie C., Picard N., Gourlet-Fleury S., Rejou-Mechain M., Freycon V., Sunderland T.C.H., McKey D.B., Doumenge C.. 2016. In : Plinio Sist (ed.), Stéphanie Carrière (ed.), Pia Parolin (ed.), Pierre-Michel Forget (ed.). Tropical ecology and society reconciliating conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Program and abstracts. Storrs : ATBC, p. 264. Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC 2016), 2016-06-19/2016-06-23, Montpellier (France).

Tropical forests are both important carbon sinks and among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the earth. Patterns in aboveground biomass (AGB) and their relationship with species diversity of tropical forests over short altitudinal gradients are poorly known and the few previous studies on the subject have yielded variable results. Here, focusing on old-growth forests in Atlantic central Africa, we investigated how AGB varies with altitude, and how this variation is related to altitudinal changes in floristic composition and/or forest structure. We also investigate the relationship between AGB and species diversity along the altitudinal gradient. We inventoried all trees with a diameter (dbh) &8805; 10 cm in fifteen 1 ha permanent plots (100 m x 100 m) established along a transect from lowland (200 m) to submontane forests (900 m) in the Ngovayang Massif, southwestern Cameroon. Our data show a negative relationship between AGB and tree species richness, related to the elevation gradient. Forest AGB varied two-fold along this gradient, decreasing from 500-600 Mg ha-1 in lowland plots to less than 300 Mg ha-1 at the highest altitudes, while diversity increased, from 35.4 to 54.6 (Fisher's alpha index). The decreasing trend in AGB was mainly due to large trees (dbh &8805; 70 cm) whose contribution to AGB significantly decreased with altitude while the contribution from smaller trees was constant. Tree height and basal area also decreased significantly with increasing altitude, whereas stem density increased. While maximum potential tree height significantly decreased, wood specific gravity displayed no trend along the gradient. In particular, we showed that AGB variation was mainly determined by shift in species composition because large tree species were filtered out in the highest altitudes. Hence, our work further highlight the need for studying the drivers of large tree species distribution to better understand forest carbon stock variations in tropical forests. At the regional level, the Ngovayang massif was among the richest sites with highest level of biomass. Our results have strong implications in decisions on balancing carbon sequestration strategies with biodiversity conservation ones. Policy consequences are particularly relevant in forest management and land use planning.(Texte intégral)

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