Natural regeneration of woody plant species along an elevational and disturbance gradient at Mt. Kilimanjaro

Renner, Marion; Rembold, Katja; Hemp, Andreas; Fischer, Markus (2022). Natural regeneration of woody plant species along an elevational and disturbance gradient at Mt. Kilimanjaro. Forest Ecology and Management, 520, p. 120404. Elsevier 10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120404

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The continuous decline and degradation of tropical rainforests is currently mainly driven by land-use change. Over the long term, climate change will further exacerbate the situation for the remaining forests. To develop sustainable conservation strategies, we need to understand the natural forest-recovery potential after disturbance and the impact of climate on forest recovery. So far, little is known about regeneration of woody species in tropical landscapes, especially in tropical Africa. We investigated the regeneration of woody plant species in six natural and seven anthropogenically disturbed habitat types along a 3.6 km elevational gradient from savanna woodland to afro-alpine vegetation at Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We recorded and identified all saplings of woody plants in a total of 65 plots, each measuring 100 m2. The total number of recorded sapling individuals amounts to 4,738 saplings from 110 species of 50 families. Along the elevational gradient, sapling numbers in natural plots showed a hump-shaped distribution peaking at mid elevation, where rainfall and overall woody biomass were highest, while species number and diversity of saplings were continuously decreasing with increasing elevation. The sapling layer in the savanna zone had three times as many species as the layer of adult trees and shrubs in the same plots, but the species composition of saplings differed strongly from the one of trees and shrubs, indicating strong spatial or temporal heterogeneity. Active agricultural plots at lower elevations also showed natural regeneration of woody species, even though numbers of sapling individuals and species were much lower than in natural low-elevation plots. Forests formerly disturbed by fire and logging showed either comparable or even increased numbers of sapling individuals and species than natural plots at the same elevation, indicating ongoing succession. Finding regeneration of woody species in all disturbed habitat types, even in agriculturally managed habitats, strongly suggests that natural regeneration is a very powerful tool to recover forest diversity after disturbances. Furthermore, our sapling dataset provides an important baseline for future monitoring of the consequences of climate and land-use change on regeneration.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


13 Central Units > Administrative Director's Office > Botanical Garden
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:

Renner, Marion Elisabeth, Rembold, Katja, Fischer, Markus


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

26 Jul 2022 13:35

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 07:47

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

east africa; forest regeneration; sapling inventory; elevational gradient; anthropogenic disturbance




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