Woody Plant Assemblages of Recently Declared Village Land Forest Reserve in The Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot
Keywords:Miombo, Human disturbance, Environmental variables, Canopy cover, Species composition
Understanding of species composition of village land forest reserves and their driving factors informs adequate development of effective restoration strategies and sustainable forest management of miombo woodlands. This study assessed the effects of human disturbance as well as environmental variables on woody plant species composition using 24 square plots of 10 x 10 m in a recently declared village land forest reserve in the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot of Tanzania. Ordination analysis technique canonical correspondence analysis was used to identify important vegetation gradients and significant factors that explain the spatial variation in species composition of woody plants. Results showed that, 779 individual woody plants were recorded, of which 379 were seedlings (48.6%), 102 saplings (13.1%) and 298 adults (38.3%). The three most dominant plant species were Brachystegia spiciformis (42.2%), Diplorhynchus condylocarpon (9%) and B. boehmii (8.7%), while the least were Multidentia crassa and Diospyros squarrosa with each species having less than 1% overall abundance. Pterocarpus angolensis, a highly protected and near-threatened tree species, was also recorded but with only very few individuals. Canopy cover and soil pH were the two most important variables explaining the spatial variation in species composition of woody plants. These results emphasise that village forests are important for preserving native and threatened tree species, and improved management should discourage all practices that change natural conditions of canopy cover and soil pH to safeguard the remaining village forests, biodiversity and rural livelihoods.