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Patterns of tree species composition across tropical African forests and within central African moist forests: the need for adapted management and conservation strategies

Gourlet-Fleury S., Fayolle A., Doucet J.L., Swaine M.. 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. 348. Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC 2016), 2016-06-19/2016-06-23, Montpellier (France).

Background: Differences in the distribution of biota across Africa have been described for well over 100 years. There is however little information on the forest types at a regional scale. In this study we aimed to identify large-scale variation in tree species composition across tropical Africa, and within central Africa, to detail the structure and functioning of moist forests. Methods: Distribution data were gathered for 1175 tree species in 455 samples from the literature scattered across tropical Africa, from Senegal to Mozambique, and including all types of tropical forests. The value of elevation and 19 climatic variables (BIOCLIM) were assigned to each sample. Management forest inventory data were assembled for 49,711 0.5-ha plots across central Africa, covering an area of more than six million hectares. Using ordinations, we determined the variations in species composition across tropical African forests and for central African moist forests we used both genus composition and forest structure. We defined floristic clusters and identified the characteristic species/genera at both levels of resolution. Results: We found floristic evidence for three main biogeographic regions across the tropical African forests, and described six floristic clusters with particular environmental conditions within these regions: Coastal and Upland for East Africa, Dry and Wet-Moist for West Africa, and Moist and Wet for Central Africa. Within the central African moist forests, we identified 7 forest types based on genus composition and forest structure. Most of these forests were composed of a mosaic of the structural derivatives of the Celtis (Ulmaceae) forest. Secondary Musanga (Moraceae) forest was located along roads and around main cities; mixed Manilkara (Sapotaceae) forest covers a huge area in the Sangha River Interval; and monodominant Gilbertiodendron (Fabaceae) forest was sparsely distributed along rivers. Conclusions: The forest types identified across tropical African forests and within central African moist forests call for adapted management and conservation strategies. Specifically, the old-growth secondary Celtis forests that cover huge areas in central Africa should be managed for future timber productions, possibly complemented by artificial regeneration while the very specific and low productive Manilkara forests should be carefully managed with lower intensity practices. (Texte intégral)

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