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See detailRecords of human activity during the late-Holocene in the soils of the African dense humid forest
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Biwolé, Achille; Bourland, Nils ULg et al

Conference (2014, April 30)

Recently, several authors gathered data about the presence of past human populations in tropical regions covered by dense forest nowadays. In central Africa, there is a growing body of evidence for past ... [more ▼]

Recently, several authors gathered data about the presence of past human populations in tropical regions covered by dense forest nowadays. In central Africa, there is a growing body of evidence for past human settlements along the Atlantic coast, but very little information is available further inland. In this perspective, soil records seem to be the most appropriated so as to appraise the spatial and temporal extent of human activity in the African dense humid forest. In this paper, we thus aimed to present a synthesis of the archaeological and archaeobotanical data obtained during several fieldwork campaigns in an archaeologically unexplored area of 200,000 km² located in southern Cameroon and the northern Republic of Congo. A total of 275 test pits, among them 30 pedological pits up to 150 cm deep, were excavated in the study area. So as to get a long temporal scale as well as a fine resolution spatial scale, we quantified wood charcoal and charred endocarps in soil samples by layers of 10 cm taken for 100 pits located along transects of systematic sampling. Spatial projections were performed using statistics together with multivariate analyses. AMS radiocarbon dating allowed interpreting the temporal framework. Evidence of past human activities through either artifacts or charred botanical remains was observed in all pits, in particular with the ubiquitous presence of charcoal at each site. Main charcoal peaks were interpreted as fields (slash-and-burn agriculture) in the vicinity of ancient villages, the later marked by the presence of both potsherds and oil palm endocarps. The dichotomy of these kinds of activities may have impacted differentially the environment during the past. The set of 73 radiocarbon dates extending from 15,000 BP to the present time provided more dates in the late-Holocene showing a bimodal distribution which was interpreted as two phases of human expansion with an intermediate phase of population crash. The 2300–1300 BP phase is correlated with the migrations of supposed farming populations from northwestern Cameroon. Between 1300 and 670 BP, less material could be dated. Following that population collapse, the 670–20 BP phase corresponds to a new period of human expansion known as the Late Iron Age. The dates obtained support the established chronology reported for whole central Africa. This study underlines the necessity of fieldwork efforts and of the usefulness of archives sealed in soil records so as to bring new, extensive and precise evidence of human activities in the Congo Basin. [less ▲]

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See detailModelling the Congo basin ecosystems with a dynamic vegetation model
Dury, Marie ULg; Hambuckers, Alain ULg; Trolliet, Franck ULg et al

Conference (2014, April)

The scarcity of field observations in some parts of the world makes difficult a deep understanding of some ecosystems such as humid tropical forests in Central Africa. Therefore, modelling tools are ... [more ▼]

The scarcity of field observations in some parts of the world makes difficult a deep understanding of some ecosystems such as humid tropical forests in Central Africa. Therefore, modelling tools are interesting alternatives to study those regions even if the lack of data often prevents sharp calibration and validation of the model projections. Dynamic vegetation models (DVMs) are process-based models that simulate shifts in potential vegetation and its associated biogeochemical and hydrological cycles in response to climate. Initially run at the global scale, DVMs can be run at any spatial scale provided that climate and soil data are available. In the framework of the BIOSERF project (“Sustainability of tropical forest biodiversity and services under climate and human pressure”), we use and adapt the CARAIB dynamic vegetation model (Dury et al., iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, 4:82-99, 2011) to study the Congo basin vegetation dynamics. The field campaigns have notably allowed the refinement of the vegetation representation from plant functional types (PFTs) to individual species through the collection of parameters such as the specific leaf area or the leaf C:N ratio of common tropical tree species and the location of their present-day occurrences from literature and available database. Here, we test the model ability to reproduce the present spatial and temporal variations of carbon stocks (e.g. biomass, soil carbon) and fluxes (e.g. gross and net primary productivities (GPP and NPP), net ecosystem production (NEP)) as well as the observed distribution of the studied species over the Congo basin. In the lack of abundant and long-term measurements, we compare model results with time series of remote sensing products (e.g. vegetation leaf area index (LAI), GPP and NPP). Several sensitivity tests are presented: we assess consecutively the impacts of the level at which the vegetation is simulated (PFTs or species), the spatial resolution and the initial land cover (potential or human-induced). First, we show simulations over the whole Congo basin at a 0.5◦ spatial resolution. Then, we present high-resolution simulations (1 km) carried out over different areas of the Congo basin, notably the DRC part of the WWF Lake Tele – Lake Tumba Landscape. Studied in the BIOSERF project, this area is characterized by a forest-savannah mosaic but also by swamp and flooded forest. In addition, forward transient projections of the model driven with the outputs of about thirty global cli- mate models (GCMs) from the new Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) will permit to outline the likely response of carbon pools to changing climate over the Congo basin during the 21th century. [less ▲]

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See detailModelling the Congo basin ecosystems with a dynamic vegetation model
Dury, Marie ULg; Hambuckers, Alain ULg; Trolliet, Franck ULg et al

Poster (2014, April)

The scarcity of field observations in some parts of the world makes difficult a deep understanding of some ecosystems such as humid tropical forests in Central Africa. Therefore, modelling tools are ... [more ▼]

The scarcity of field observations in some parts of the world makes difficult a deep understanding of some ecosystems such as humid tropical forests in Central Africa. Therefore, modelling tools are interesting alternatives to study those regions even if the lack of data often prevents sharp calibration and validation of the model projections. Dynamic vegetation models (DVMs) are process-based models that simulate shifts in potential vegetation and its associated biogeochemical and hydrological cycles in response to climate. Initially run at the global scale, DVMs can be run at any spatial scale provided that climate and soil data are available. In the framework of the BIOSERF project (“Sustainability of tropical forest biodiversity and services under climate and human pressure”), we use and adapt the CARAIB dynamic vegetation model (Dury et al., iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, 4:82-99, 2011) to study the Congo basin vegetation dynamics. The field campaigns have notably allowed the refinement of the vegetation representation from plant functional types (PFTs) to individual species through the collection of parameters such as the specific leaf area or the leaf C:N ratio of common tropical tree species and the location of their present-day occurrences from literature and available database. Here, we test the model ability to reproduce the present spatial and temporal variations of carbon stocks (e.g. biomass, soil carbon) and fluxes (e.g. gross and net primary productivities (GPP and NPP), net ecosystem production (NEP)) as well as the observed distribution of the studied species over the Congo basin. In the lack of abundant and long-term measurements, we compare model results with time series of remote sensing products (e.g. vegetation leaf area index (LAI), GPP and NPP). Several sensitivity tests are presented: we assess consecutively the impacts of the level at which the vegetation is simulated (PFTs or species), the spatial resolution and the initial land cover (potential or human-induced). First, we show simulations over the whole Congo basin at a 0.5◦ spatial resolution. Then, we present high-resolution simulations (1 km) carried out over different areas of the Congo basin, notably the DRC part of the WWF Lake Tele – Lake Tumba Landscape. Studied in the BIOSERF project, this area is characterized by a forest-savannah mosaic but also by swamp and flooded forest. In addition, forward transient projections of the model driven with the outputs of about thirty global cli- mate models (GCMs) from the new Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) will permit to outline the likely response of carbon pools to changing climate over the Congo basin during the 21th century. [less ▲]

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See detailHistoire humaine des forêts tropicales du nord du Bassin du Congo durant les deux derniers millénaires
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Biwolé, Achille; Bourland, Nils ULg et al

Scientific conference (2014, March 26)

Identifier les indices d’activités humaines anciennes et les mettre en relation avec la composition floristique actuelle grâce à une approche multidisciplinaire.

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See detailThe end of roaming in the forest causes a loss of timber resources: the paradox of slash-and-burn agriculture
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Favier, Charly et al

Conference (2014, February 27)

Tropical forests are not believed as pristine anymore. Their structure and specific composition are induced by past climatic and human disturbances over years. In the African moist forests, the emergent ... [more ▼]

Tropical forests are not believed as pristine anymore. Their structure and specific composition are induced by past climatic and human disturbances over years. In the African moist forests, the emergent trees are mainly light-demanding. These trees are considered to derive from the recent disturbances of the last centuries. Most of them are exploited for their timber. However, several of these tree species are currently suffering from a lack of regeneration that threatens the specific diversity of the forests and the sustainability of timber exploitation. Through dendrometric and radiocarbon analyses we found that the majority of the trees of the Congo Basin are not older than 160 years. This corresponds to about the year 1850 when the Europeans colonized the inner regions of Central Africa. By reassembling people along the road axes, the colonial administration reduced the forest roaming. Former activities such as slash and burn agriculture created large openings in the canopy that allowed light-demanding tree species to establish. Currently we observed that timber logging does not provide openings large enough for the recruitment of these species. We thus anticipate that adjustments in forest management strategies shall be made to preserve the forest resources, for instance by recreating the conditions of slash and burn agriculture. [less ▲]

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See detailWood charcoal analysis: a relatively new tool for palaeoecology in tropical Africa
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Biwole, Achille ULg; Bourland, Nils ULg et al

Scientific conference (2014, February 14)

This is an introduction about wood charcoal properties, collection and taxonomical identification in the framework of palaeoecological studies in Central Africa through examples of possible applications.

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See detailSoil Seed Bank : a poorly know component of forest regeneration
Douh, Chauvelin ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg; Fernandez Pierna, Juan-Antonio et al

Poster (2014, February)

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See detailDendrochronological analysis of large tropical trees: a new approach combining photogrammetry, image processing and GIS tools
Latte, Nicolas ULg; Bauwens, Sébastien ULg; Bonnet, Stéphanie ULg et al

Conference (2014, January 17)

Tree-ring analysis of tropical trees is especially time-consuming for the largest trees. Because of large dimensions and irregular shapes, the tree-ring measurements are generally achieved (semi-)manually ... [more ▼]

Tree-ring analysis of tropical trees is especially time-consuming for the largest trees. Because of large dimensions and irregular shapes, the tree-ring measurements are generally achieved (semi-)manually directly from wood samples. The aim of this study is to present a new approach of tree-ring measurements combining photogrammetry, image processing and GIS tools that is appropriate for very large wood samples. Disks are sawed from felled trees above buttress. Small diameters holes are drilled to the disk surface to be later used as control points. Images are taken with an off-the-shelf camera and assembled with PhotoScan in order to produce an orthoimage of the green disk surface. After drying, disks are sanded (grain 80-400) and scanned with a flatbed scanner (A3 size) at high resolution (1200-2400 dpi). The scans are then mosaicked together with Autopano into one single image. Based on the control points of the green orthoimage, the ‘dry’ image is georeferenced and rectified. Using a GIS environment, tree-rings are delimited and ring widths and/or areas measured. Disks are entirely digitalized into high resolution images (0.02-0.04mm per pixel) offering a wide range of analysis possibilities. The image-based procedure reduces cost of disk handling and transportation, facilitates data processing and transfer and, is adaptable to any type of wood samples. [less ▲]

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See detailImprove the characterization of tropical forests to improve management: policy brief
Gourlet-Fleury, Sylvie; Aleman, Julie; Bayol, Nicolas et al

Report (2014)

CoForChange has shown that management plans based on timber stock recovery are not enough to ensure the sustainability of these production forests. The variability of forest characteristics and their ... [more ▼]

CoForChange has shown that management plans based on timber stock recovery are not enough to ensure the sustainability of these production forests. The variability of forest characteristics and their different responses to disturbance should be considered in management decisions. [less ▲]

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See detailNew Evidence of Human Activities during the Holocene in the Lowland Forests of the Northern Congo Basin
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Gillet, Jean-François et al

in Radiocarbon (2014), 56(1), 209-220

In the last decade, the myth of the pristine tropical forest has been seriously challenged. In central Africa, there is a growing body of evidence for past human settlements along the Atlantic forests ... [more ▼]

In the last decade, the myth of the pristine tropical forest has been seriously challenged. In central Africa, there is a growing body of evidence for past human settlements along the Atlantic forests, but very little information is available about human activities further inland. In this study, we aimed at determining the temporal and spatial patterns of human activities in an archaeologically unexplored area of 110,000 km² located in the northern Congo Basin and currently covered by dense forest. Fieldwork involving archaeology as well as archaeobotany was undertaken in 36 sites located in southeastern Cameroon and in the northern Republic of Congo. Evidence of past human activities through either artifacts or charred botanical remains was observed in all excavated test pits across the study area. The set of 43 radiocarbon dates extending from 15,000 BP to the present time showed a bimodal distribution in the Late Holocene which was interpreted as two phases of human expansion with an intermediate phase of depopulation. The 2300–1300 BP phase is correlated with the migrations of supposed farming populations from northwestern Cameroon. Between 1300 and 670 BP, less material could be dated. This is in agreement with the population collapse already reported for central Africa. Following this, the 670–20 BP phase corresponds to a new period of human expansion known as the Late Iron Age. These results bring new and extensive evidence of human activities in the northern Congo Basin and support the established chronology for human history in central Africa. [less ▲]

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See detailPatterns of tree species composition across tropical African forests
Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Swaine, Michael D.; Bastin, Jean-François ULg et al

in Journal of Biogeography (2014), online

Aim : In this study we identified large-scale variation in tree species composition across tropical African forests and determined the underlying environmental and historical factors. Location : Tropical ... [more ▼]

Aim : In this study we identified large-scale variation in tree species composition across tropical African forests and determined the underlying environmental and historical factors. Location : Tropical forests from Senegal to Mozambique. Methods : Distribution data were gathered for 1175 tree species in 455 sample sites scattered across tropical Africa, including all types of tropical forests (wet, moist, dry, and lowland to moderate elevation montane forests). The value of elevation and 19 climatic variables extracted from the BIOCLIM data set were assigned to each sample site. We determined the variation in species composition using correspondence analysis and identified the environmental correlates. We defined floristic clusters according to species composition and identified the characteristic species using indicator analysis. Results : We identified a major floristic discontinuity located at the Albertine rift that separated the dry, moist and wet forests of West and Central Africa (the entire Guineo-Congolian Region) from the upland and coastal forests of East Africa. Except for the Albertine Rift, we found no evidence to support the other proposed floristic discontinuities (Dahomey Gap etc.). We detected two main environmental gradients across tropical African forests. The rainfall gradient was strongly correlated with the variation in tree species composition in West and Central Africa. The elevation/temperature gradient highlighted the major floristic differences within East Africa and between East Africa and the Guineo-Congolian Region, the latter being most probably due to the geological disruption and associated climatic history of the East African uplift. Main conclusions : We found floristic evidence for three main biogeographical regions across the tropical African forests, and described six floristic clusters with particular environmental conditions within these regions: Coastal and Upland for East Africa, Dry and Wet-Moist for West Africa, and Moist and Wet for Central Africa. [less ▲]

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See detailA new insight in the structure, composition and functioning of central African moist forests
Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Picard, Nicolas; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULg et al

in Forest Ecology & Management (2014), (329), 195-205

The greater part of the semi-deciduous moist forests of the Congo basin has been given to logging companies for exploitation. In the next decades, very few of these forests will remain intact. In this ... [more ▼]

The greater part of the semi-deciduous moist forests of the Congo basin has been given to logging companies for exploitation. In the next decades, very few of these forests will remain intact. In this paper, we aimed to identify large-scale variations in the structure, composition and functioning of African moist forests that could serve as a baseline for both management and conservation purposes. Commercial forest inventory data were assembled for 49,711 0.5-ha plots, covering an area of more than six million hectares, crossing the borders of Cameroon, Central African Republic and Republic of Congo. Floristic composition was analyzed for a subset of 176 genera reliably identified in the field. Three key functional traits of tropical trees: regeneration guild, leaf phenology, and wood specific gravity, were collected at the species level from various sources, and assigned at the genus level. We first investigated the main variations in forest structure and composition, and identified seven forest types based on these variations. Differences in the percentage of pioneer and deciduous stems, and mean wood specific gravity were tested between forest types. Most of the study area was composed of a mosaic of the structural variations of the forests characterized by the occurrence of Celtis (Ulmaceae) species, which are mostly composed of frequent and abundant genera that formed the common floristic pool of the region. Secondary Musanga (Moraceae) forest is located in repeatedly disturbed areas, along roads and around main cities; mixed Manilkara (Sapotaceae) forest covers a huge area in the southern Central African Republic and in the northern Republic of Congo; and monodominant Gilbertiodendron (Fabaceae) forest is sparsely distributed along rivers. The contrasted structure, composition, and functioning of the forest types imply pronounced differences in population and ecosystem processes, and call for adapted management and conservation strategies. [less ▲]

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See detailReproductive ecology of Coula edulis Baill., source of a valuable non-timber forest product
Moupela, Christian ULg; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

in Tropical Ecology (2014), 55(3), 327-338

The reproductive ecology of Coula edulis (Olacaceae), source of a highly valuable non-timber product for African populations, has been investigated on a large tree sample size in a Gabonese forest for a 3 ... [more ▼]

The reproductive ecology of Coula edulis (Olacaceae), source of a highly valuable non-timber product for African populations, has been investigated on a large tree sample size in a Gabonese forest for a 3-year period, in order to propose options for its domestication. Reproduction is annual and the minimum tree diameter for flowering was 10.6 cm while the diameter for regular fructification was 23 cm. The annual diameter increment (ADI; mean = 0.22 cm year-1) was affected by crown exposure, but not by initial tree diameter or fruit production. Tree diameter influenced fruiting frequency and fruit production. There was a strong correlation between fruit production of 2011 and 2012 (Pearson's r = 0.85; P < 0.001), suggesting a high heritability of that trait. Phenotypical selection should be performed prior to any propagation activity. Moreover, as most of C. edulis fruits were sterile (64 %), we propose that sylvicultural strategies should be based on vegetative propagation. [less ▲]

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See detailCombined effects of climate, resource availability, and plant traits on biomass produced in a Mediterranean rangeland
Chollet, Simon; Rambal, Serge; Fayolle, Adeline ULg et al

in Ecology (2014), 95(3), 737-748

Biomass production in grasslands, a key component of food provision for domestic herbivores, is known to depend on climate, resource availability, and on the functional characteristics of communities ... [more ▼]

Biomass production in grasslands, a key component of food provision for domestic herbivores, is known to depend on climate, resource availability, and on the functional characteristics of communities. However, the combined effects of these different factors remain largely unknown. The aim of the present study was to unravel the causes of variations in the standing biomass of plant communities using a long-term experiment conducted in a Mediterranean rangeland of Southern France. Two management regimes, sheep grazing and grazing associated with mineral fertilization, were applied to different areas of the study site over the past 25 years. Abiotic (temperature, available water, nutrients) and biotic (components of the functional structure communities) factors were considered to explain interannual and spatial variations in standing biomass in these rangelands. Standing biomass was highly predictable, with the best model explaining ;80% of variations in the amount of biomass produced, but the variation explained by abiotic and biotic factors was dependent on the season and on the management regime. Abiotic factors were found to have comparable effects in both management regimes: The amount of biomass produced in the spring was limited by cold temperatures, while it was limited by water availability and high temperatures in the summer. In the fertilized community, the progressive change in the functional structure of the communities had significant effects on the amount of biomass produced: the dominance of few productive species which were functionally close led to higher peak standing biomass in spring. [less ▲]

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See detailRelation entre anatomie du bois et traits fonctionnels chez 584 espèces d'Afrique tropicale
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULg et al

Poster (2013, November 19)

Les différences anatomiques observées dans le bois ont souvent été mises en relation avec des adaptations évolutives et environnementales. Toutefois, les liens entre structure du bois et contraintes ... [more ▼]

Les différences anatomiques observées dans le bois ont souvent été mises en relation avec des adaptations évolutives et environnementales. Toutefois, les liens entre structure du bois et contraintes écologiques restent peu connus. En effet, peu d’études ont combiné les approches anatomique et fonctionnelle. De plus, nos connaissances sont très limitées pour les biomes à grande diversité spécifique, en particulier l’Afrique tropicale. Les récents développements relatifs aux traits fonctionnels des espèces du Bassin du Congo poussent à tester de nouvelles hypothèses sur ces essences. Objectifs : Montrer dans quelle mesure les caractères anatomiques d’espèces de la zone guinéo-congolaise sont associés à plusieurs traits fonctionnels majeurs. Nous avons croisé plusieurs bases de données : 1) InsideWood : anatomie du bois, codage binaire (1/0) des descriptions : présence/absence des 163 caractères de la liste IAWA et 2) CoForTraits : traits fonctionnels de 1236 espèces, utilisation de 5 groupes de traits impliqués dans la croissance, la survie et la reproduction des plantes : a) la phénologie foliaire, b) le tempérament, c) la dispersion des graines, d) la forme de vie et e) la densité du bois. Analyse des pourcentages d’occurrence des caractères anatomiques pour les 584 espèces communes aux deux bases. Analyse factorielle des correspondances (AFC) entre les caractères anatomiques et les espèces. Analyse taxonomique enracinée pour évaluer les relations entre les caractères anatomiques et les traits fonctionnels. Tests de la variance. Résultats : 131 caractères anatomiques présents et 13 absents. Les caractères absents ou rares représentent soit des variables quantitatives soit des caractères typiques des régions tempérées. Les caractères très fréquents sont tropicaux et/ou africains. Plusieurs caractères sont très variables (ex. les cernes de croissance). Les 4 premiers axes de l’AFC représentent 15,23% de la variation anatomique. Parmi les caractères fréquents (ex. ponctuations ornées) et peu fréquents (ex. perforations scalariformes, cellules en tuile), plusieurs représentent un signal taxonomique soit au niveau de la famille (ex. Malvaceae, Fabaceae), soit au niveau du genre (ex. Strombosia spp.) Certains caractères proviennent d’un héritage écologique. Il existe en effet une divergence fonctionnelle et anatomique entre a) les grands arbres émergents et les arbustes de sous-bois. Ces éléments peuvent être mis en relation avec les stratégies de croissance en hauteur, de compétition pour accéder à la lumière, de durée de vie, d’efficacité vs de sécurité de la conduction hydrique, de résistance à la sécheresse et de colonisation de l’espace. Notre étude montre que les caractères anatomiques du bois sont dans une certaine mesure liés aux traits fonctionnels impliqués dans la croissance, la survie et la reproduction des plantes. Notre approche peut être utilisée pour évaluer les stratégies des plantes dans des milieux tropicaux à forte diversité spécifique. [less ▲]

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See detailDe la paléoécologie à l'écologie actuelle : 2000 ans d'interaction homme-milieu dans le nord du Bassin du Congo
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Bentaleb, Ilham; Biwole, Achille ULg et al

Poster (2013, November 06)

La forêt tropicale africaine a longtemps été considérée comme vierge du passage de l’homme. Cependant, plusieurs études récentes en paléoécologie et archéologie ont démontré la présence d’activités ... [more ▼]

La forêt tropicale africaine a longtemps été considérée comme vierge du passage de l’homme. Cependant, plusieurs études récentes en paléoécologie et archéologie ont démontré la présence d’activités humaines anciennes à partir d’indices paléoenvironnementaux (i.e. pollens de plantes anthropophiles) et d’artefacts (i.e. tessons de céramique). Ces études sont toutefois trop rares en raison de difficultés de terrain pour repérer et accéder aux sites archéologiques (couvert végétale dense, absence de pistes). De grandes zones à l’intérieur des terres demeurent donc inexplorées. Par ailleurs, peu d’études se sont penchées sur la question de l’impact de ces activités anthropiques passées sur la structure et la composition de la végétation actuelle. Grâce à une approche multidisciplinaire à la frontière entre sciences humaines et sciences de l’environnement (archéologie, pédoanthracologie : charbons de bois des sols, écologie forestière), notre objectif est d’identifier des indices d’activités humaines anciennes, lesquels sont été mis en relation avec les patrons actuels de végétation. Nos trois zones d’étude sont localisées en forêt tropicale humide de type guinéo-congolais et sont réparties dans le sud-ouest et sud-est du Cameroun et le nord de la République du Congo. Le long d’une vingtaine de transects de plusieurs kilomètres, nous avons appliqué un protocole systématique de récolte de matériel archéologique et archéobotanique dans des fosses situées sur des parcelles d’inventaire botanique. Ceci nous a permis de récolter plus d’un millier d’échantillons contenant des macrorestes végétaux carbonisés ainsi que des artefacts inédits pour la région (pierre taillée et polie, tessons de céramique, scories de métallurgie) et d’inventorier la végétation dans l’environnement immédiat des découvertes. L’analyse spatiale et temporelle (chronologie relative et par datation radiocarbone) des macrorestes a permis d’identifier des villages entourés de probables champs agricoles (agriculture itinérante sur brûlis). Les 68 datations radiocarbones et les types céramiques obtenus suivent une chronologie archéologique en deux phases : un âge du Fer ancien entre 2300 et 1300 BP et un âge du Fer récent se poursuivant jusqu’à la période subactuelle, entre 670 et 20 BP. Entre ces deux phases d’occupation, les traces d’activités anthropiques sont rares. La première phase d’activités serait à mettre en relation avec une fragmentation de la forêt dense à la suite d’un épisode climatique aride autour de 2500 BP, permettant ainsi aux populations de pénétrer la forêt. Un épisode plus humide à partir de 800 BP, avec un retour d’un couvert plus dense, aurait fait reculer les populations humaines. Leur rétablissement dans les forêts se serait produit conjointement à des conditions plus sèches. Ces trois phases rejoignent la chronologie générale établie à l’échelle de l’Afrique centrale. Les premiers taxons identifiés parmi les macrorestes végétaux carbonisés, graines et charbons de bois, démontrent l’utilisation ancienne du palmier à huile et d’arbres fruitiers sauvages. Les espèces ligneuses identifiées sont présentes dans le cortège floristique actuel. L’identification taxonomique des charbons de bois devrait nous permettre de reconstituer l’environnement végétal au cours des deux derniers millénaires. Les différences observées dans les couverts forestiers passé et actuel en termes de composition floristique ainsi que la structure des peuplements actuels sont de bons indicateurs d’impacts récents de l’homme sur son milieu. [less ▲]

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See detailHeight competition between Quercus petraea and Fagus sylvatica natural regeneration in mixed and uneven-aged stands
Ligot, Gauthier ULg; Balandier, Philippe; Fayolle, Adeline ULg et al

in Forest Ecology & Management (2013), 304

We monitored in situ natural regeneration in 23 uneven-aged stands. We modelled height growth in the regeneration of Quercus petraea and Fagus sylvatica. Beech saplings grew faster than oak saplings at ... [more ▼]

We monitored in situ natural regeneration in 23 uneven-aged stands. We modelled height growth in the regeneration of Quercus petraea and Fagus sylvatica. Beech saplings grew faster than oak saplings at all light levels. Oak gained greater benefit from direct radiation than did beech. Canopy opening is insufficient to promote oak over beech regeneration. [less ▲]

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See detailAnalyzing soil charcoals to assess the naturalness of tropical forest
Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Gorel, Anaïs-Pasiphaé; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

Conference (2013, June 26)

For conservation biology and sustainable management, the natural character of tropical forest is a crucial issue. Its assessment is usually based on ecological proxies such as forest composition and ... [more ▼]

For conservation biology and sustainable management, the natural character of tropical forest is a crucial issue. Its assessment is usually based on ecological proxies such as forest composition and structure. However the estimation made on this basis only considers short term processes at a local scale. In contrast the long term processes are appraised by palaeoecological proxies (such as pollen) at a regional scale. So as to assess the degree of naturalness of tropical ecosystems in a conservation perspective it is important to combine a long temporal scale as well as a fine resolution spatial scale. Such approaches using palaeoecological proxies have been recently tested in temperate Europe but little in tropical ecosystems. Nonetheless the long term preservation of the palaeoecological material and its broad presence in the environment are necessary conditions to fulfill. In this perspective soil charcoal appears to meet these requirements. In this paper we aimed at assessing the naturalness of tropical forest using soil charcoal from southeastern Cameroon. Fieldwork involving as well archaeology as botany was undertaken at 53 sites. We quantified charcoal in soil samples by layers of 10 cm taken from pits located in the center of plots of botanical inventory. Spatial projections were performed using statistics together with multivariate analyses. Radiocarbon dating allowed interpreting the temporal framework. Results showed the ubiquitous presence of charcoal at each site. Main charcoal peaks were interpreted as fields (slash-and-burn agriculture) in the vicinity of ancient villages. These practices shaped the forest over time which cannot be considered as natural anymore. This underlines the potential input of the use of palaeoecological material in conservation biology and sustainable management issues. Charcoal fragments are under taxonomical identification and may provide new insights on the long term history of forest composition. [less ▲]

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