Vertical and Horizontal Vegetation Structure across Natural and Modified Habitat Types at Mount Kilimanjaro

Rutten, Gemma; Ensslin, Andreas; Hemp, Andreas; Fischer, Markus; Silva, Lucas C.R. (2015). Vertical and Horizontal Vegetation Structure across Natural and Modified Habitat Types at Mount Kilimanjaro. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0138822. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0138822

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In most habitats, vegetation provides the main structure of the environment. This complexity can facilitate biodiversity and ecosystem services. Therefore, measures of vegetation structure can serve as indicators in ecosystem management. However, many structural measures are laborious and require expert knowledge. Here, we used consistent and convenient measures to assess vegetation structure over an exceptionally broad elevation gradient of 866–4550m above sea level at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Additionally, we compared (human)-modified habitats, including maize fields, traditionally managed home gardens, grasslands, commercial coffee farms and logged and burned forests with natural habitats along this elevation gradient. We distinguished vertical and horizontal vegetation structure to account for habitat complexity and heterogeneity. Vertical vegetation structure (assessed as number, width and density of vegetation layers, maximum canopy height, leaf area index and vegetation cover) displayed a unimodal elevation pattern, peaking at intermediate elevations in montane forests, whereas horizontal structure (assessed as coefficient of variation of number, width and density of vegetation layers, maximum canopy height, leaf area index and vegetation cover) was lowest at intermediate altitudes. Overall, vertical structure was consistently lower in modified than in natural habitat types, whereas horizontal structure was inconsistently different in modified than in natural habitat types, depending on the specific structural measure and habitat type. Our study shows how vertical and horizontal vegetation structure can be assessed efficiently in various habitat types in tropical mountain regions, and we suggest to apply this as a tool for informing future biodiversity and ecosystem service studies.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

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:

Rutten, Gemma Gerarda Petronella M.; Ensslin, Andreas and Fischer, Markus

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

04 Nov 2015 15:56

Last Modified:

04 Nov 2015 15:56

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0138822

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.72538

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/72538

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