Fayolle et al_FEM_A new insight in the structure_PR2014

Fayolle A., Picard N., Doucet J.L., Swaine M., Bayol N., Bénédet F., Gourlet-Fleury S.

[2014] A new insight in the structure, composition and functioning of central African moist forests. Forest Ecology & Management 329, 195-205.

The greater part of the semi-deciduous moist forests of the Congo basin has been given to logging companies for exploitation. In the next decades, very few of these forests will remain intact. In this paper, we aimed to identify large-scale variations in the structure, composition and functioning of African moist forests that could serve as a baseline for both management and conservation purposes. Commercial forest inventory data were assembled for 49,711 0.5-ha plots, covering an area of more than six million hectares, crossing the borders of Cameroon, Central African Republic and Republic of Congo. Floristic composition was analyzed for a subset of 176 genera reliably identified in the field. Three key functional traits of tropical trees: regeneration guild, leaf phenology, and wood specific gravity, were collected at the species level from various sources, and assigned at the genus level. We first investigated the main variations in forest structure and composition, and identified seven forest types based on these variations. Differences in the percentage of pioneer and deciduous stems, and mean wood specific gravity were tested between forest types. Most of the study area was composed of a mosaic of the structural variations of the forests characterized by the occurrence of Celtis (Ulmaceae) species, which are mostly composed of frequent and abundant genera that formed the common floristic pool of the region. Secondary Musanga (Moraceae) forest is located in repeatedly disturbed areas, along roads and around main cities; mixed Manilkara (Sapotaceae) forest covers a huge area in the southern Central African Republic and in the northern Republic of Congo; and monodominant Gilbertiodendron (Fabaceae) forest is sparsely distributed along rivers. The contrasted structure, composition, and functioning of the forest types imply pronounced differences in population and ecosystem processes, and call for adapted management and conservation strategies.

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