Aboveground Deadwood Biomass and Composition Along Elevation and Land-Use Gradients at Mount Kilimanjaro

Komposch, Armin; Ensslin, Andreas; Fischer, Markus; Hemp, Andreas (2022). Aboveground Deadwood Biomass and Composition Along Elevation and Land-Use Gradients at Mount Kilimanjaro. Frontiers in ecology and evolution, 9 Frontiers Media 10.3389/fevo.2021.732092

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Deadwood is an important structural and functional component of forest ecosystems and biodiversity. As deadwood can make up large portions of the total aboveground biomass, it plays an important role in the terrestrial carbon (C) cycle. Nevertheless, in tropical ecosystems and especially in Africa, quantitative studies on this topic remain scarce. We conducted an aboveground deadwood inventory along two environmental gradients-elevation and land use- at Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We used a huge elevation gradient (3690 m) along the southern slope of the mountain to investigate how deadwood is accumulated across different climate and vegetation zones. We also compared habitats that differed from natural forsts in land-use intensity and disturbance history to assess anthropogenic influence on deadwood accumulation. In our inventory we distinguished coarse woody debris (CWD) from fine woody debris (FWD). Furthermore, we calculated the C and nitrogen (N) content of deadwood and how the C/N ratio varied with decomposition stages and elevation. Total amounts of aboveground deadwood ranged from 0.07 +/- 0.04 to 73.78 +/- 36.26 Mg ha(-1) (Mean +/- 1 SE). Across the elevation gradient, total deadwood accumulation was highest at mid-elevations and reached a near-zero minimum at very low and very high altitudes. This unimodal pattern was mainly driven by the corresponding amount of live aboveground biomass and the combined effects of decomposer communities and climate. Land-use conversion from natural forests into traditional homegardens and commercial plantations, in addition to frequent burning, significantly reduced deadwood biomass, but not past selective logging after 30 years of recovery time. Furthermore, we found that deadwood C content increased with altitude. Our study shows that environmental gradients, especially temperature and precipitation, as well as different anthropogenic disturbances can have considerable effects on both the quantity and composition of deadwood in tropical forests.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Komposch, Armin, Ensslin, Andreas, Fischer, Markus


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)




Frontiers Media




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

24 Feb 2022 15:28

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:07

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Tanzania, East African mountains, aboveground deadwood accumulation, decomposition, carbon stock, land-use change, tropical montane forest, tropical mountain





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