Zébazé D., Gorel A., Gillet J.-F., Houngbégnon F., Barbier N., Ligot G., Lhoest S., Kamdem G., Libalah M., Droissart V., Sonké B., Doucet J.-L. [2023] Natural regeneration in tropical forests along a disturbance gradient in South-East Cameroon. Forest Ecology and Management 547. DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2023.121402
Abstract [en] :
The dynamics of tropical forests are highly dependent on the forest understorey. Understanding its diversity and composition is essential to ensure sustainable management of forest ecosystems. In this study, following a gradient of human disturbance, we analysed the density, diversity and floristic composition of the forest understorey in three land use types of south-eastern Cameroon: a protected area, a selective logging concession and community forests. Vegetation was inventoried in thirty-three permanent one-hectare plots. Woody individuals (tree, shrub, liana) were classified in four strata depending on their diameter: seedling (dbh < 1 cm), sapling (1–9.9 cm), small trees (10–29.9 cm), large tree (≥30 cm). A total of 4,159 individuals (dbh < 10 cm) belonging to 418 species and 232 genera were recorded. They mainly represent tree species (65%) and shade tolerant plants (77%), with diaspores disseminated by animals (74%). Life forms and modes of dissemination were significantly different between land use types. Abundance, species richness and diversity of juveniles varied significantly between strata and land use types: they were globally the highest in plots that have been logged less than five years before inventory. In terms of species composition, the different land use types were not clearly separated, indicating some resilience to disturbance. A low similarity between strata was observed. In all types, most canopy species are light demanding and cannot regenerate in the understorey. This indicates a natural evolution of the forest stands in the absence of silviculture. The presence of species that currently dominate the canopy of these forests will be gradually reduced without human intervention.