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Demography and biomass change in monodominant and mixed old-growth forest of the Congo

  • Jean-Remy Makana (a1), Corneille N. Ewango (a2), Sean M. McMahon (a3), Sean C. Thomas (a4), Terese B. Hart (a5) and Richard Condit (a6)...

Mbau forest covers much of the Congo, and shifts in its composition could have a large impact on the African tropics. The Ituri forest in east Congo is near a boundary between the monodominant mbau type and non-mbau mixed forest, and two 20-ha censuses of trees ≥ 1 cm diameter were carried out over 12 y to monitor forest change. Based on published diameter allometry, mbau forest had 535 Mg ha−1 biomass above ground and gained 1.1 Mg ha−1 y−1. Mixed forest had 399 Mg ha−1 and gained 3 Mg ha−1 y−1. The mbau tree (Gilbertiodendron dewevrei) increased its share of biomass from 4.1% to 4.4% in mixed forest; other common species also increased. Sapling density declined at both sites, likely because increased biomass meant shadier understorey, but the mbau tree increased in sapling density, suggesting it will become more important in the future. Tree mortality and growth rates were low relative to other tropical forests, especially in the mbau plots. Shifting toward G. dewevrei would represent a large gain in carbon in the mixed forest, but mbau is presently more important as a high-carbon stock: biomass lost during forest harvest could not recuperate for centuries due to slow community dynamics.

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R. CONDIT 1998. Tropical forest census plots: methods and results from Barro Colorado Island, Panama and a comparison with other plots. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 211 pp.

T. HART , J. HART , R. DECHAMPS , M. FOURNIER & M. ATAHOLO 1996. Changes in forest composition over the last 4000 years in the Ituri Basin, Zaire. Pp. 545563 in L. J. G. van der Maesen , X. M. van der Burgt & J. M. van Medenbach de Rooy (eds.). Biodiversity of African plants. XIVth Congress of the Association-pour-l'Etude-Taxonomique-de-la-Flore-d-Afrique-Tropicale (AETFAT), Wageningen, the Netherlands, 2227 August 1994. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht. 861 pp.

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Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-tropical-ecology
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