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Structure and inferred dynamics of a large grove of Microberlinia bisulcata trees in central African rain forest: the possible role of periods of multiple disturbance events

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2004

D. M. Newbery
Affiliation:
Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
X. M. van der Burgt
Affiliation:
Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
D. M. Newbery
Affiliation:
Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland Current address: Department of Mathematics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

Abstract

A 272-ha grove of dominant Microberlinia bisulcata (Caesalpinioideae) adult trees ≥50 cm stem diameter was mapped in its entirety in the southern part of Korup National Park, Cameroon. The approach used an earlier-established 82.5-ha permanent plot with a new surrounding 50-m grid of transect lines. Tree diameters were available from the plot but trees on the grid were recorded as being ≥50 cm. The grove consisted of 1028 trees in 2000. Other species occurred within the grove, including the associated subdominants Tetraberlinia bifoliolata and T. korupensis. Microberlinia bisulcata becomes adult at a stem diameter of c. 50 cm and at an estimated age of 50 y. Three oval-shaped subgroves with dimensions c. 850 m×1350 m (90 ha) were defined. For two of them (within the plot) tree diameters were available. Subgroves differed in their scales and intensities of spatial tree patterns, and in their size frequency distributions, these suggesting differing past dynamics. The modal scale of clumping was 40–50 m. Seed dispersal by pod ejection (to c. 50 m) was evident from the semi-circles of trees at the grove's edge and from the many internal circles (100–200 m diameter). The grove has the capacity, therefore, to increase at c. 100 m per century. To form its present extent and structure, it is inferred that it expanded and infilled from a possibly smaller area of lower adult-tree density. This possibly happened in three waves of recruitment, each one determined by a period of several intense disturbances. Climate records for Africa show that 1740–50 and 1820–30 were periods of drought, and that 1870–1895 was also regionally very dry. Canopy openings allow the light-demanding and fast-growing ectomycorrhizal M. bisulcata to establish, but successive releases are thought to be required to achieve effective recruitment. Nevertheless, in the last 50 y there were no major events and recruitment in the grove was very poor. This present study leads to a new hypothesis of the role of periods of multiple extreme events being the driving factor for the population dynamics of many large African tree species such as M. bisulcata.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2004 Cambridge University Press

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Structure and inferred dynamics of a large grove of Microberlinia bisulcata trees in central African rain forest: the possible role of periods of multiple disturbance events
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Structure and inferred dynamics of a large grove of Microberlinia bisulcata trees in central African rain forest: the possible role of periods of multiple disturbance events
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Structure and inferred dynamics of a large grove of Microberlinia bisulcata trees in central African rain forest: the possible role of periods of multiple disturbance events
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