Original Research

Vegetation, floristic composition and structure of a tropical montane forest in Cameroon

Moses N. Sainge, Ngoh M. Lyonga, Gildas P.T. Mbatchou, David Kenfack, Felix Nchu, Andrew T. Peterson
Bothalia | Vol 49, No 1 | a2270 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v49i1.2270 | © 2019 Moses N. Sainge, Ngoh M. Lyonga, Gildas P.M. Tchouto, David Kenfack, Felix Nchu, Andrew T. Peterson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 June 2017 | Published: 08 January 2019

About the author(s)

Moses N. Sainge, Tropical Plant Exploration Group, Mundemba, Cameroon; and, Department of Environmental and Occupational Studies, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
Ngoh M. Lyonga, Tropical Plant Exploration Group, Mundemba, Cameroon
Gildas P.T. Mbatchou, Programme for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, South-West Region, Cameroon
David Kenfack, Center for Tropical Forest Science, Smithsonian Institution, United States
Felix Nchu, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
Andrew T. Peterson, Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, United States


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Abstract

Background: The Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve (RHFR) is a montane forest area in south-western Cameroon. Although RHFR is presumed to be rich in biodiversity and vegetation types, little information exists regarding its floristic composition and vegetation patterns.

Objectives: Our goal was to characterise vegetation patterns in the reserve and to understand how elevation influences distributions and diversity of species. We aimed to provide a first detailed plant species inventory for this important forest area, as well as basic information on forest structure.

Method: We characterised floristic composition and vegetation patterns of the reserve in 25 1-ha plots along an elevational gradient from 50 m to 1778 m. In each plot, trees and lianas of diameter at breast height (dbh) ≥ 10 cm were measured; shrubs < 10 cm were measured in nested plots of 0.01 ha.

Results: In all, 16 761 trees, shrubs and lianas with dbh ≥ 1 cm were censused, representing 71 families, 279 genera and 617 morphospecies. Floristic composition ranged from 94 to 132 species, with a mean of 117.5 species per hectare in lowland forest (50 m – 200 m) and 36–41 species, with a mean of 38.5 species per hectare in montane cloud forest (1600 m – 1778 m) near the summit of Mount Rata. Two-way indicator species analysis classified the 25 plots into six vegetation types corresponding to lowland evergreen rainforest, lowland evergreen rainforest on basalt rocks, middle-elevation evergreen forest, submontane forest, transitional submontane forest and montane cloud forest. In all, 0.006% of the reserve was included in our sample plots. Detrended correspondence analysis highlighted the importance of elevation in shaping vegetation patterns.

Conclusion: The RHFR is composed of different vegetation types, which show impressive variation in terms of structure, species composition and diversity. The detailed, fine-scale inventory data obtained in this study could be useful in planning efficient management of this and other montane tropical forests.


Keywords

Floristic composition; vegetation patterns; montane forest; Rumpi Hills; Cameroon

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