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See detailThe last 1,000 years in the Northern Congo Basin
Morin, Julie ULg; Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Favier, Charly et al

Conference (2015, November)

Review of the events that happened in the northern Congo basin during the last 1,000 yr. Positive impact of human disturbances on the regeneration of light-demanding trees. Negative impact of the European ... [more ▼]

Review of the events that happened in the northern Congo basin during the last 1,000 yr. Positive impact of human disturbances on the regeneration of light-demanding trees. Negative impact of the European colonization and following events on human populations and tree regeneration. [less ▲]

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See detailSeeing Central African forests through their largest trees
Bastin, Jean-François ULg; Barbier, Nicolas; Réjou-Méchain, Maxime et al

in Scientific Reports (2015)

Large tropical trees and a few dominant species were recently identified as the main structuring elements of tropical forests. However, such result did not translate yet into quantitative approaches which ... [more ▼]

Large tropical trees and a few dominant species were recently identified as the main structuring elements of tropical forests. However, such result did not translate yet into quantitative approaches which are essential to understand, predict and monitor forest functions and composition over large, often poorly accessible territories. Here we show that the above-ground biomass (AGB) of the whole forest can be predicted from a few large trees and that the relationship is proved strikingly stable in 175 1-ha plots investigated across 8 sites spanning Central Africa. We designed a generic model predicting AGB with an error of 14% when based on only 5% of the stems, which points to universality in forest structural properties. For the first time in Africa, we identified some dominant species that disproportionally contribute to forest AGB with 1.5% of recorded species accounting for over 50% of the stock of AGB. Consequently, focusing on large trees and dominant species provides precise information on the whole forest stand. This offers new perspectives for understanding the functioning of tropical forests and opens new doors for the development of innovative monitoring strategies. [less ▲]

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See detailDid the savannah « flourished » 3000 years ago in the so-called Sangha River Interval of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest ? A retrospective study using stable isotopes and phytoliths
Bentaleb, Ilham; Freycon, Vincent; Gillet, Jean-François et al

Poster (2015, April)

We aim to improve our knowledge of the dynamic of the vegetation in Central Africa during the last 5 kyrs and to discuss the main hypothesis described in the literature - humans versus climatic impacts ... [more ▼]

We aim to improve our knowledge of the dynamic of the vegetation in Central Africa during the last 5 kyrs and to discuss the main hypothesis described in the literature - humans versus climatic impacts- both suggested as responsible of the Congo basin rainforest decline observed between 3 and 2.5 kyrs. We use the carbon isotopic composition of well-dated Central African soils to reconstruct the dynamic of the vegetation cover. We will discuss the carbon isotopic composition of the soil organic carbon methodology for reconstructing palaeovegetation in the light of Rayleigh distillation model. We showed that numerous sites exhibit a carbon isotopic ratios reflecting the Rayleigh distillation but few sites recorded real vegetation changes. Our study suggests that the vegetation of the Guineo-Congolian Region was disturbed between 3000 and 2000 BP (Before Present) without an extreme savannah expansion. We discussed the two hypotheses human versus climate impacts that may conduct to such new physiography of the vegetation. We suggest that the climate hypothesis is more likely than the human impact to explain the reduction of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest 3000 years ago. [less ▲]

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See detailComparative effectiveness of silvicultural interventions for increasing timber production and sustaining conservation values in natural tropical production forests. A systematic review protocol
Petrokofsky, Gillian; Sist, Plinio; Blanc, Lilian et al

in Environmental Evidence (2015), 4(8),

Background: Currently, about 400 million hectares of tropical moist forests worldwide are designated production forests, about a quarter of which are managed by rural communities and indigenous peoples ... [more ▼]

Background: Currently, about 400 million hectares of tropical moist forests worldwide are designated production forests, about a quarter of which are managed by rural communities and indigenous peoples. There has been a gradual impoverishment of forest resources inside selectively logged forests in which the volume of timber extracted over the first cutting cycle was mostly from large, old trees that matured over a century or more and grew in the absence of strong anthropological pressures. In forests now being logged for a second and third time, that volume has not been reconstituted due in part to the lack of implementation of post-logging silvicultural treatments. This depletion of timber stocks renders the degraded forests prone to conversion to other land uses. Although it is essential to preserve undisturbed primary forests through the creation of protected areas, these areas alone will not be able to ensure the conservation of all species on a pan-tropical scale, for social, economic and political reasons. The conservation of tropical forests of tomorrow will mostly take place within human-modified (logged, domesticated) forests. In this context, silvicultural interventions are considered by many tropical foresters and forest ecologists as tools capable of effectively conserving tropical forest biodiversity and ecosystem services while stimulating forest production. This systematic review aims to assess past and current evidence of the impact of silviculture on tropical forests and to identify silvicultural practices appropriate for the current conditions in the forests and forestry sectors of the Congo Basin, Amazonia and Southeast Asia. Methods: This systematic review will undertake an extensive search of literature to assess the relative effectiveness of different silvicultural interventions on timber production and the conservation value of forests, and to determine whether there is a relationship between sustainability of timber harvesting and the maintenance/conservation of other ecosystem services and biodiversity in production forests. Data will be extracted for meta-analysis of at least sub-sets of the review questions. Findings are expected to help inform policy and develop evidence-based practice guidelines on silvicultural practices in tropical forests. [less ▲]

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See detailNineteenth century human history explains the dominance of light-demanding tree species in Central African moist forests
Morin, Julie ULg; Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Favier, Charly et al

Poster (2015, March 21)

The canopy of central African moist forests is dominated by light-demanding trees. Most of these species show a distribution of diameters that indicates a regeneration shortage. Here we show through the ... [more ▼]

The canopy of central African moist forests is dominated by light-demanding trees. Most of these species show a distribution of diameters that indicates a regeneration shortage. Here we show through the combined analysis of botanical, palaeoecological, archaeological and historical data that most of these trees are not older than ca. 180 years. This age corresponds to the early 19th century (around 1830) when the slave-raiding, the interethnic wars and the colonization of the inlands by the Europeans disturbed the human spatial occupancy. After 1885, the spatial clumping of people and villages along the main communication axes induced less itinerancy in the forest. We believe that former activities such as shifting cultivation created scattered openings in the canopy, large enough to allow light-demanding trees to establish. Nowadays, common logging operations do not create openings sufficiently large for the regeneration of these high value timber species. Our findings emphasize the need to include considerations about the history of human spatial occupancy and activities to understand forest dynamics. We need silvicultural guidelines adapted to the autecology of the species. Population enforcements (e.g. enrichment) will be needed to ensure the sustainability of timber yields in forests dominated by long-lived light-demanding trees. [less ▲]

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See detailIdentification of charred botanical remains provides more accurate information on past history in Central Africa
Morin, Julie ULg; Biwolé, Achille; Bourland, Nils et al

Poster (2015, January 30)

In palaeoenvironmental studies, charred botanical remains have rarely been identified to the species level before being sent to radiocarbon dating. Moreover, the age of most tropical spp. and thereby the ... [more ▼]

In palaeoenvironmental studies, charred botanical remains have rarely been identified to the species level before being sent to radiocarbon dating. Moreover, the age of most tropical spp. and thereby the age of the carbon sequestered during plant growth is not known. Dating unidentified charred wood in the tropics should be thus treated with caution because the accuracy of the dates is not guaranteed. Here we present 71 dates obtained on charred endocarps and wood charcoals sampled in soil pits in Cameroon and in the Rep. of the Congo. We taxonomically identified 43 samples then selected both identified and unidentified individual fragments for radiocarbon dating. We performed summed probability distributions of the dates calibrated in BP for the 43 identified and the 28 unidentified samples separately then for the whole dates. Results showed that the dates obtained on unidentified samples better fit the established chronology for Central Africa but that they also presented less precise standard deviations than the dates obtained on identified short-lived material, and that the dates on identified samples provide more detailed trends about the phases of human occupation in Central Africa after 2,500 BP. We can assume that dating unidentified material may introduce some blur into chronologies and that the selection of identified charred botanical remains should be systematically applied for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions in tropical contexts to refine the chronologies. [less ▲]

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See detailTree roots can penetrate deeply in African semi-deciduous rain forests: evidence from two common soil types
Freycon, Vincent; Wonkam, Christelle; Fayolle, Adeline ULg et al

in Journal of Tropical Ecology (2015), 31(1), 13-23

Despite the important functional role of deep roots in withdrawing water during drought, direct measurements of root distribution are very rare in tropical rain forests. The aim of this study was to ... [more ▼]

Despite the important functional role of deep roots in withdrawing water during drought, direct measurements of root distribution are very rare in tropical rain forests. The aim of this study was to investigate the root distribution of Entandrophragma cylindricum, a common tree species in the Central African semi-deciduous rain forest, in Ferralsols and Arenosols. We dug two pits to a depth of 6 m in Ferralsols and two pits to a depth of 3 m in Arenosols, close to E. cylindricum trees. The vertical soil profiles were divided into 10 × 10-cm grid cells and the roots counted were distributed in three diameter classes. We fitted a root distribution model to our dataset. We found that vertical root distribution was shallower in Arenosols than in Ferralsols. Root penetration was not stopped even by a Ferralsol with high gravel content in its subsoil. Overall, our measurements showed that 95% of all roots were distributed to depths of between 258 and 564 cm from the soil surface, which is much deeper than the 95 cm depth previously reported in the literature for tropical rain forests. As sampling depth could explain this discrepancy, we recommend a sampling depth of at least 3–5 m to accurately estimate root distribution. The drier the dry season, the deeper the sampling depth should be. Our results are consistent with global models of root distribution in forest ecosystems, which are driven by climate variables. We thus suggest that deep rooting could be common in rain forests with a marked dry season. [less ▲]

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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 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 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 ULg 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 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 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), 41

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 detailTropical tree assembly depends on the interactions between successional and soil filtering processes
Réjou-Méchain, Maxime; Flores, Olivier; Pélissier, Raphaël et al

in Global Ecology & Biogeography (2014), 23(12), 1440-1449

Aim: Successional and soil filtering processes are key drivers of the assembly of tropical tree communities, yet little is known about how they interact. Herein, we determine whether successional pathways ... [more ▼]

Aim: Successional and soil filtering processes are key drivers of the assembly of tropical tree communities, yet little is known about how they interact. Herein, we determine whether successional pathways depend on soil type, how the soil filtering effect varies during forest succession and whether succession is accompanied by changes in trait composition. Location: South-western Central African Republic. Methods: We used inventory data on 90 dominant tree species (72% of the stems ≥ 30 cm d.b.h.) in 15,420 plots (each 0.5 ha) distributed over an 8300-km2 mosaic of primary and secondary forests on contrasting clay and sandy soils. We gathered data on six traits: dispersal mode, nitrogen fixation, deciduousness, leaf area, wood density and maximum diameter. After validation with historical information, we used a successional index based on pioneer proportion to assess variations in trait composition, and in α- and β-diversity, in forest succession, and within and between soil types. Results: Taxonomic and functional dissimilarities between clay and sandy soils decreased continuously during forest succession. Within soil types, earlysuccessional communities had a low taxonomic but relatively high functional α-diversity. At the landscape scale, β-diversity was higher among earlier successional stages, except in rich soils where taxonomic β-diversity was high throughout the succession.Mean values for all traits, except leaf area, showed marked variations during forest succession in both soil types. Main conclusions: The effect of soil type on community composition declines during succession, suggesting that the relative importance of neutral processes is higher in mature forests. Successional pathways were fairly similar in both soil types: disturbances reduced taxonomic diversity locally and enhanced β-diversity between sites, probably because the disturbances varied in type. We also demonstrated how easy-to-collect traits help improve predictions of ecological patterns and deepen our understanding of species assembly processes. [less ▲]

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See detailLes plantations forestières en Afrique centrale : des sylvicultures nouvelles pour répondre aux nouveaux besoins des sociétés
Marien, Jean-Noël; Gourlet-Fleury, Sylvie; Peltier, Régis et al

in de Wasseige, Carlos; Flynn, J.; Louppe, Dominique (Eds.) et al Les forêts du Bassin du Congo - Etat des forêts 2013 (2014)

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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 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 detailLa photogrammétrie: un procédé pour mesurer les arbres à troncs irréguliers
Bauwens, Sébastien ULg; Fayolle, Adeline ULg; Nzenga, Alide Kidimbu et al

Conference (2013, April)

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See detailSilvicultural disturbance has little impact on tree species diversity in a Central African moist forest
Gourlet-Fleury, Sylvie; Beina, D.; Fayolle, Adeline ULg et al

in Forest Ecology & Management (2013), (304), 322-332

Timber production is an important economic sector in most forested countries of Central Africa, where about 14 million hectares of lowland moist forests are now planned for management. This production is ... [more ▼]

Timber production is an important economic sector in most forested countries of Central Africa, where about 14 million hectares of lowland moist forests are now planned for management. This production is expected to be sustainable, but the actual impact of logging on biodiversity is still questioned. To answer this question, we used a unique long-term controlled experiment implemented more than 20 years ago in an old-growth semi-deciduous moist forest of the Central African Republic (CAR). We tested whether (i) anthropogenic disturbances associated with silvicultural operations had an effect on the composition and diversity of tree communities, and (ii) there is a relationship between diversity and disturbance intensity in those forests. For this, we botanically identified all treesP10 cm DBH in 28 1-ha plots where no treatment (controls), logging and logging + thinning operations were implemented 24 years ago and created a strong gradient of disturbance. We investigated the relationships between five diversity indices and a disturbance index calculated for each 1-ha plot, for all species and separately for three regeneration guilds. We found a strong positive monotonic relationship between the intensity of disturbance and the percentage of pioneer species in the tree communities, which proved to be equally detrimental, in terms of relative abundance, to the non-pioneer light-demanding and the shade-bearing species. Overall, disturbance appeared to have a weak monotonous negative effect on diversity, irrespective to the index considered. The diversity of shade-bearers slightly decreased along the disturbance gradient without significant decrease in species density; disturbance had no effect on non-pioneer light demanders, but a clear significant negative effect on the diversity of pioneers, with a significant decrease in species density. This negative effect was associated with the massive recruitment of the early-successional, fast-growing Musanga cecropioides R. Br. (Urticaceae), which rapidly preempted space and resources in the most disturbed plots. Despite this effect, disturbance did not significantly affect the local heterogeneity in species distribution. These results suggest that the semi-deciduous moist forests of CAR are locally resilient to small-scale disturbances associated with silvicultural operations. This may be a consequence of the past anthropogenic and/or climatic disturbances, which have been stronger and more long-lasting than elsewhere within the tropical forest biome, and would have removed the most vulnerable species. Because logging intensity in these forests is usually low, we do not expect any direct major impact on tree species diversity, at least after the first felling cycle. [less ▲]

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See detailTropical forest recovery from logging: a 24 year silvicultural experiment from Central Africa
Gourlet-Fleury, Sylvie; Mortier, Frédéric; Fayolle, Adeline ULg et al

in Philosophical Transactions : Biological Sciences (2013), (368),

Large areas of African moist forests are being logged in the context of supposedly sustainable management plans. It remains however controversial whether harvesting a few trees per hectare can be ... [more ▼]

Large areas of African moist forests are being logged in the context of supposedly sustainable management plans. It remains however controversial whether harvesting a few trees per hectare can be maintained in the long term while preserving other forest services as well. We used a unique 24 year silvicultural experiment, encompassing 10 4 ha plots established in the Central African Republic, to assess the effect of disturbance linked to logging (two to nine trees ha−1 greater than or equal to 80 cm DBH) and thinning (11–41 trees ha−1 greater than or equal to 50 cm DBH) on the structure and dynamics of the forest. Before silvicultural treatments, above-ground biomass (AGB) and timber stock (i.e. the volume of commercial trees greater than or equal to 80 cm DBH) in the plots amounted 374.5 ± 58.2 Mg ha−1 and 79.7 ± 45.9 m3 ha−1, respectively. We found that (i) natural control forest was increasing in AGB (2.58 ± 1.73 Mg dry mass ha−1 yr−1) and decreasing in timber stock (−0.33 ± 1.57 m3 ha−1 yr−1); (ii) the AGB recovered very quickly after logging and thinning, at a rate proportional to the disturbance intensity (mean recovery after 24 years: 144%). Compared with controls, the gain almost doubled in the logged plots (4.82 ± 1.22 Mg ha−1 yr−1) and tripled in the logged + thinned plots (8.03 ± 1.41 Mg ha−1 yr−1); (iii) the timber stock recovered slowly (mean recovery after 24 years: 41%), at a rate of 0.75 ± 0.51 m3 ha−1 yr−1 in the logged plots, and 0.81 ± 0.74 m3 ha−1 yr−1 in the logged + thinned plots. Although thinning significantly increased the gain in biomass, it had no effect on the gain in timber stock. However, thinning did foster the growth and survival of small- and medium-sized timber trees and should have a positive effect over the next felling cycle. [less ▲]

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