Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 13, pp 4097–4117 | Cite as

From Forest to Farmland: Species Richness Patterns of Trees and Understorey Plants along a Gradient of Forest Conversion in Southwestern Cameroon

  • K. Serge Bobo
  • Matthias Waltert
  • N. Moses Sainge
  • John Njokagbor
  • Heleen Fermon
  • Michael Mühlenberg


Vegetation surveys were carried out at 24 sampling stations distributed over four land use types, namely near-primary forest, secondary forest, agroforestry systems and annual crop lands in the northeastern part of the Korup region, Cameroon, to assess the impact of forest conversion on trees and understorey plants. Tree species richness decreased significantly with increasing level of habitat modification, being highest and almost equal in secondary and near-primary forests. Understorey plant species richness was significantly higher in annual crop lands than in other land use types. The four land use types differed in tree and understorey plant species composition, the difference being smaller among natural forests. Tree and understorey plant density differed significantly between habitat types. Density was strongly correlated with species richness, both for trees and understorey plants. Five tree and 15 understorey plant species showed significant responses to habitat. A 90% average drop in tree basal area from forest to farmland was registered. Our findings support the view that agroforestry systems with natural shade trees can serve to protect many forest species, but that especially annual crop lands could be redesigned to improve biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes of tropical rainforest regions.

Key words

Biodiversity conservation Cameroon Land use Reconciliation ecology Trees Tropical rainforest Understorey plants 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bawa K. and Seidler R. (1998). Natural forest management and the conservation of biodiversity in tropical forests. Conserv. Biol. 12: 46–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bobo K.S., Waltert M., Fichtler M. and Muehlenberg M. (2005). New bird records for the Korup Project AreaSouthwest Cameroon. Malimbus 27: 13–18Google Scholar
  3. Bobo K.S., Waltert M. and Muehlenberg M. (2004). On the significance of birds as bio-indicators for biodiversity studies at local spatial scales. Tag. trop. Vögel Ges. Trop. ornithol. 8: 54–65Google Scholar
  4. Boubli J.P., Eriksson J., Hohmann S., Wich G. and Fruth B. (2004). Mesoscale transect sampling of trees in the Lomako-Yekokora interfluviumDemocratic Republic of the Congo. Biodiv. Conserv. 13: 2399–2417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boulinier T., Nichols J.D., Sauer F.R., Hines J.E. and Pollock K.H. (1998). Estimating species richness: the importance of heterogeneity in species detectability. Ecology 79: 1018–1028CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burnham K.P. and Overton W.S. (1978). Estimation of the size of a closed population when capture probabilities vary among animals. Biometrika 65: 625–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burnham K.P. and Overton W.S. (1979). Robust estimation of population size when capture probabilities vary among animals. Ecology 60: 927–936CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chao A. (1987). Estimating the population size for capture-recapture data with unequal catchability. Biometrics 43: 783–791PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chazdon R.L., Colwell R.K., Denslow J.S. and Guariguata M.R. (1998). Statistical methods for estimating species richness of woody regeneration in primary and secondary rain forests of northeastern Costa Rica. In: Dallmeier, F. and Comiskey, J.A. (eds) Forest Biodiversity ResearchMonitoring and Modeling: Conceptual Background and Old World Case Studies, pp 285–309. Parthenon Publishing, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
  10. Colwell R.K. 2000. EstimateS – Statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from samples. Version 6.0b1. http:/ Scholar
  11. Colwell R.K. and Coddington J.A. (1994). Estimating terrestrial biodiversity through extrapolation. Philos. Trans. Roy. Soc. London, Series B 345: 101–118Google Scholar
  12. Cox T.F. and Cox M.A.A. (1994). Multidimensional scaling. Monographs on Statistics and Applied Probability, vol. 59. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis S.D., Heywood V.H. and Hamilton A.C. (1994). Centres of Plant Diversity: A Guide and Strategy for their Conservation. Volume 1: Europe, Africa, South West Asia and the Middle East. IUCN Publications Unit, Cambridge UKGoogle Scholar
  14. Devineau J.L. (1984). Structure et Dynamique de Quelques Forêts Tropophiles de l’Ouest Africain (Côte d’Ivoire). Programme MAB Savane. Universite d’Abidjan, Abidjan, Ivory CoastGoogle Scholar
  15. Hallé F. (1990). Tropical rain forests: structure and growth dynamics relative to utilization by birds. In: Keast, A. (eds) Biogeography and Ecology of Forest Bird Communities, pp 27–33. 1990 SPB Academic Publishing bv, The HagueThe NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  16. Heltshe J.F. and Forrester N.E. (1983). Estimating species richness using the Jackknife procedure. Biometrics 39: 1–11PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holm S. (1979). A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scand. J. Stat. 6: 65–70Google Scholar
  18. Horváth A., March I.J. and Wolf J.H.D. (2001). Rodent Diversity and Land Use in MontebelloChiapas, Mexico. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 36: 169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hughes J.B., Daily G.C. and Ehrlich P.R. (2002). Conservation of tropical forest birds in countryside habitats. Ecol. Lett. 5: 121–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Larsen T.B. 1997. Biodiversity writ large. Korup’s butterflies, Report to Korup Project.Google Scholar
  21. Lawton J.H., Bignell D.E., Bolton B., Bloemers G.F., Eggleton P., Hammond P.M., Hodda M., Holt R.D., Larsen T.B., Mawdsley N.A., Stork N.E., Srivastava D.S. and Watt A.D. (1998). Biodiversity inventories, indicator taxa and effects of habitat modification in tropical forest. Nature 391: 72–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Magurran A.E. (1988). Ecological Diversity and its Measurement. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  23. Malaisse F. (1984). Contribution a l’étude de l’écosystème forêt dense sèche (Muhulu). Structure d’une forêt dense sèche zambezienne des environs de Lubumbashi (Zaire). Bulletin de la Société Royale de Botanique de Belgique 117: 428–458Google Scholar
  24. MINEF/KP 2002. A Management Plan for Korup National Park and its Peripheral Zone. 2002– 2007. WWF/EU/GTZ.Google Scholar
  25. Nichols J.D. and Conroy M. J. (1996). Estimation of species richness. In: Wilson, D.E., Cole, F.R., Nichols, J.D., Rudran, R. and Foster, M. (eds) Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity. Standard Methods for Mammals, pp 226–234. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  26. Nichols J.D., Boulinier T., Hines J.E., Pollock K.H. and Sauer J.R. (1998). Inference methods for spatial variation in species richness and community composition when not all species are detected. Conserv. Biol. 12: 1390–1398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Oates J.F. (1996). African Primates. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Revised Edition. IUCN, GlandGoogle Scholar
  28. Olsen D.M.E., Dinerstein E.D., Wikramanayake N.D., Burgess G.V.N., Powell E.C., Underwood J.A., Itoua I., Strand H.E., Morrison J.C., Loucks C.J., Allnutt T.F., Ricketts T.H., Kura Y., Lamoreux J.F., Wettengel W.W., Hedao P., Kassem K.R. and D’Amico (2001). Terrestrial Ecoregions of the world: a new map of life on earth. Bioscience 51: 933–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rice W.R. (1989). Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution 43: 223–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rodewald P.G., Dejaifve P.A. and Green A.A. (1994). The birds of Korup National Park and Korup Project AreaSouthwest ProvinceCameroon. Bird Conserv. Int. 4: 1–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rosenzweig M.L. (2003). Reconciliation ecology and the future of species diversity. Oryx 37: 194–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schulze C.H., Steffan-Dewenter I. and Tscharntke T. (2004b). Effects of land use on butterfly communities at the rain forest margin: a case study from Central Sulawesi. In: Gerold, G., Fremerey, M., and Guhardja, E. (eds) Land UseNature Conservation and the Stability of Rainforest Margins in Southeast Asia, pp 281–297. Springer-Verlag, Berlin HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  33. Schulze C.H., Waltert M., Kessler P.J.A., Pitopang R., Veddeler M., Mühlenberg S.R., Leuschner C., Steffan-Dewenter I., Tscharntke T., Shahabuddin and Gradstein (2004a). Biodiversity indicator groups of tropical land-use systems: comparing plants, birds and insects. Ecol. Appl. 14: 1321–1333Google Scholar
  34. Sokpon N. (1995). Recherches ecologiques sur la forêt dense semi-decidue de Pobe au Sud du Benin: groupements vegetaux, regéneration naturelle et chute de litière. Universite libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  35. Sonke B. (1998). Etudes floristiques et structurales des forêts de la reserve de faune du Dja (Cameroun). Universite libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  36. Sonke B. and Lejoly J. (1998). Biodiversity study in Dja fauna reserve (Cameroon): using the transect method. In: Huxley, C.R., Lock, J.M. and Cutler, D.F. (eds) Chorology, Taxonomy and Ecology of the Floras of Africa and Madagascar, pp 171–179. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew UKGoogle Scholar
  37. StatSoft. (2001). STATISTICA for Windows. StatSoft, TulsaGoogle Scholar
  38. Turner I.M., Tan H.T.W., Wee Y.C., Ibrahim A.B., Chew P.T. and Corlett R.T. (1994). A study of plant species extinction in Singapore: lessons for the conservation of tropical biodiversity. Conserv. Biol. 8: 705–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. van Gemerden B.S. (2004). DisturbanceDiversity and Distributions in Central African Rain Forest. Wageningen University, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  40. Waltert M., Faber K., Mühlenberg M. and Lien (2002). Further declines of threatened primates in the Korup Project AreaSouth-west Cameroon. Oryx 36: 257–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Waltert M., Mardiastuti A. and Mühlenberg M. (2004). Effects of land use on bird species richness in SulawesiIndonesia. Conserv. Biol. 18: 1339–1346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Waltert M., Bobo K.S., Sainge M.N., Fermon H. and Mühlenberg M. (2005). From forest to farmland: Habitat effects on Afrotropical forest bird diversity. Ecol. Appl. 15(4): 1351–1366Google Scholar
  43. White J.T.L. (1992). Vegetation History and Logging Disturbance: Effects on Rain Forest Mammals in the Lope ReserveGabon (with special emphasis on elephants and apes). University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UKGoogle Scholar
  44. White F. (1983). The Vegetation of Africa. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  45. World Wildlife Fund. 2001. Terrestrial ecoregions of the world: a new map of life on earth. Published at: Scholar
  46. Zapfack L., Engwald S., Sonke B., Achoundong G. and Madong B.A. (2002). The impact of land conversion on plant biodiversity in the forest zone of Cameroon. Biodiv. Conserv. 11: 2047–2061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zent E.L. and Zent S. (2004). Floristic composition, structureand diversity of four forest plots in the Sierra MaigualidaVenezuelan Guayana. Biodiv. Conserv. 13(13): 2453–2483CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Serge Bobo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthias Waltert
    • 1
  • N. Moses Sainge
    • 3
  • John Njokagbor
    • 3
  • Heleen Fermon
    • 1
  • Michael Mühlenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Nature Conservation (Dept 1)Georg-August UniversityGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Ministry of Forestry and WildlifeYaoundeCameroon
  3. 3.Korup National ParkMundembaSouthwest Cameroon

Personalised recommendations