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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 detailSpeciation slowing down in widespread and long-living tree taxa : insights from the tropical timber tree genus Milicia (Moraceae)
Daïnou, Kasso ULg; Mahy, Grégory ULg; Duminil, Jérôme et al

in Heredity (2014)

The long generation time and large effective size of widespread forest tree species can result in slow evolutionary rate and incomplete lineage sorting, complicating species delimitation. We addressed ... [more ▼]

The long generation time and large effective size of widespread forest tree species can result in slow evolutionary rate and incomplete lineage sorting, complicating species delimitation. We addressed this issue with the African timber tree genus Milicia that comprises two morphologically similar and often confounded species: M. excelsa, widespread from West to East Africa, and M. regia, endemic to West Africa. We combined information from nuclear microsatellites (nSSRs), nuclear and plastid DNA sequences, and morphological systematics to identify significant evolutionary units and infer their evolutionary and biogeographical history. We detected five geographically coherent genetic clusters using nSSRs and three levels of genetic differentiation. First, one West African cluster matched perfectly with the morphospecies M. regia that formed a monophyletic clade at both DNA sequences. Second, a West African M. excelsa cluster formed a monophyletic group at plastid DNA and was more related to M. regia than to Central African M. excelsa, but shared many haplotypes with the latter at nuclear DNA. Third, three Central African clusters appeared little differentiated and shared most of their haplotypes. Although gene tree paraphyly could suggest a single species in Milicia following the phylogenetic species concept, the existence of mutual haplotypic exclusivity and nonadmixed genetic clusters in the contact area of the two taxa indicate strong reproductive isolation and, thus, two species following the biological species concept. Molecular dating of the first divergence events showed that speciation in Milicia is ancient (Tertiary), indicating that long-living tree taxa exhibiting genetic speciation may remain similar morphologically. [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 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 detailImpacts of past Human disturbances on present-day tree species assembly in a tropical forest of South-East Cameroon
Vleminckx, Jason; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

Poster (2013, November 06)

Many evidence have been found for intensive past Human presence in the forests of Central Africa, notably widespread charcoal occurrence in the soil. Forest clearing for slash-and-burn agriculture may ... [more ▼]

Many evidence have been found for intensive past Human presence in the forests of Central Africa, notably widespread charcoal occurrence in the soil. Forest clearing for slash-and-burn agriculture may have favored the competitiveness of light-demanding species (LD) to the detriment of shade-bearer species (SB). Hypothesis: Positive correlation between abundance of charcoal in the soil (proxy for past Human clearing) and abundance of LD.Mostly “young” charcoals were thought to reflect past Human disturbances that would have shaped present-day species assembly. However, CAI 0-20cm and CAI 20-100cm were highly correlated with each other (r-Pearson = 0.55; P<0.001) and both displayed positive correlations with Non-Pioneer LD abundance (significant with a classic test) and negative correlations with SB abundance. Although this observation is coherent with our hypothesis, significance disappeared when correcting for spatial autocorrelation [4], even after removing small-diameter trees potentially too young to be linked with last Human disturbances (not shown). Correlation of CAI between the two soil layers => Humans found appropriate conditions for settlement in the same area at different periods? Absence of significant correlation in ❸ (i) Last Human disturbances are too old to detect any signal on present-day tree species assembly. (ii) Human impact is weak compared to other factors (soil properties, dispersal limitation,…) (iii) Local scale heterogeneity of LD abundance is weak compared to landscape scale. Parallel large scale gradients in the abundance of Non-Pioneer LD and charcoal abundance (proxy for past slash-and-burn activities) were observed, but a causal link cannot be established so far. [less ▲]

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See detailLe genre Guibourtia Benn: un modèle biologique idéal pour comprendre les mécanismes de spéciation
Tosso, Dji-ndé Félicien ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg; Hardy, Olivier et al

Poster (2013, November 06)

Les forêts denses tropicales humides se distinguent par leur grande diversité biologique qui leur confère un caractère complexe. Dans un tel contexte, comprendre le passé et l'histoire évolutive de la ... [more ▼]

Les forêts denses tropicales humides se distinguent par leur grande diversité biologique qui leur confère un caractère complexe. Dans un tel contexte, comprendre le passé et l'histoire évolutive de la dynamique de ces forêts, constitue un moyen efficace pour prédire leur dynamique future. De telles études qui traitent de la biologie évolutive (phylogénie et phylogéographie) sont rares en Afrique comparativement aux autres continents. Le présent travail ambitionne de contribuer, sur base d’un modèle biologique comportant plusieurs espèces sœurs, à la compréhension des mécanismes à l'origine de la diversité des écosystèmes forestiers tropicaux. Le modèle biologique choisi est le genre Guibourtia Benn daté de moins de 20.000 ans qui regroupe 13 espèces ligneuses africaines de grande importance socio-culturelle et économique. Ce modèle rassemble non seulement des espèces de formations végétales différentes (forêt et savane) mais aussi des espèces inféodées aux régions établies sur des sols variés (sableux, argilo-limoneux, calcaire, hydromorphe etc.). Spécifiquement, l’étude vise à (i) démêler les relations phylogénétiques au sein du genre Guibourtia sur la base de caractérisations physiologique et morphogénétique; (ii) inférer l'histoire évolutive au sein du genre Guibourtia grâce aux récents outils d'analyse phylogéographique et de datation moléculaire ; et (iii) examiner les possibilités de flux de gènes entre deux espèces morphologiquement semblables à savoir G. tessmannii (Harms) J. Léonard et G. pellegriniana J. Léonard à l’échelle du Gabon. Ce travail se distingue par son originalité du fait qu’il développe une approche qui combine la physiologie et la génétique. Les résultats contribueront à modéliser la distribution des différentes unités évolutives du genre Guibourtia avec un modèle dynamique de végétation (CARAIB) afin de conclure sur leur statut de conservation et déduire les stratégies de gestion durable appropriées. [less ▲]

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See detailHow closely are Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae) patches linked to past human disturbances in South-Eastern Cameroon
Bourland, Nils ULg; Cerisier, François; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

Conference (2013, June 26)

Studies conducted in the Congo Basin forests concluded that soil parameters and large disturbances induced by human activities since 3000–2000 BP could be the main driver for the persistence of long lived ... [more ▼]

Studies conducted in the Congo Basin forests concluded that soil parameters and large disturbances induced by human activities since 3000–2000 BP could be the main driver for the persistence of long lived light-demanding tall tree species. Today most of the timber species belong to this group, among them Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae). Like many other light-demanding trees, this species suffers from important regeneration problems. While the conditions for its establishment must have been met in the past, they obviously have become unfavourable. Because of ongoing logging activities and a natural decline of its populations, this species is recorded in both the IUCN Red List and the CITES Appendix II listings. Our goal was to investigate the roles of both pedological and anthropogenic factors in the persistence of forest patches characterized by this clustered species. Soil surveys, botanical inventories and anthracological excavations were conducted in three different forest sites located in south-eastern Cameroon. P. elata patches (3.3-14.7 ha) were studied and compared to their close surroundings. No statistical differences were observed between the results of botanical inventories conducted inside and outside the patches (Morisita-Horn indices from 0.69-0.77). Soils only differed in Fe content, but otherwise no significant differences could be observed. Charcoal is widespread and abundant in study sites, mostly inside the patches. Charcoal radiocarbon dating (2,150-195 BP) was consistent with decoration techniques of archaeological materials that we discovered. The average age of P. elata individuals coincides with fire events that occurred in a region where fires rarely occur naturally. We present evidence of past anthropogenic disturbances (human settlement, slash-and-burn cultivation) in the Congolese mixed moist semi-evergreen forest in south-eastern Cameroon. We discuss the potential influence of our findings on the management of light-demanding tall trees populations in a context of logging activities. [less ▲]

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See detailAfzelia populations, a poorly known species complex of timber trees from African tropical forests
Donkpegan, Segbedji ULg; Hardy, Olivier; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

Scientific conference (2013, June 26)

The fate of African tropical forests is a major concern for conservation, while their biodiversity is still poorly known. The purpose of this poster is to provide an update of knowledge of the genus ... [more ▼]

The fate of African tropical forests is a major concern for conservation, while their biodiversity is still poorly known. The purpose of this poster is to provide an update of knowledge of the genus Afzelia, a complex of sister tree species exploited for their wood in central Africa. The distribution of Afzelia in Africa suggests various adaptations to ecological factors. In fact, most of Afzelia species occur in parapatry and are so similar that they are often not distinguished by logging companies and forests managers. We show that the genus remains understudied in Africa although some of its species are considered as endangered or vulnerable. Therefore, a revision of its taxonomy along with thorough investigations of ecological and genetic aspects of Afzelia populations, using molecular markers currently in development (nSSR, cpDNA and nDNA), should be relevant and of great interest for conservation and sustainable management purposes. We will describe the different and complementary morpho-genetic approaches that will be used to investigate the biogeographical history of Afzeliapopulation in concert with species boundary questions. [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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See detailImpacts of past Human disturbances on present day tree species assembly in the tropical forests of South-East Cameroon
Vleminckx, Jason; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

Poster (2013, June 25)

Non-random spatial distribution of trees is the result of both neutral and deterministic factors. Neutral models suggest that species within a community are equally competitive, with spatial structures ... [more ▼]

Non-random spatial distribution of trees is the result of both neutral and deterministic factors. Neutral models suggest that species within a community are equally competitive, with spatial structures mainly due to dispersal limitation. Deterministic (or non-neutral) models consider species assemblages as the result of what we name “induced spatial dependence”, where forcing (explanatory) variables shape diversity organization. However, deterministic models have often included habitat variables only, without considering human disturbance which we know enhances the competitive advantage of heliophytic (light-demanding) species and therefore the floristic composition of phytocenoses. Based on charcoal abundance in the soil (used as an indicator of anthropogenic perturbation), species abundance, and environmental data from a forest of south-east Cameroon, we applied modern variation partitioning methods to assess the relative impact of human disturbance on floristic patterns, controlling for purely spatial and habitat effects. Significant signals of human influence have been found so far, and a new collection of data should establish with a better precision the importance of the anthropogenic impact on tree species assemblages. [less ▲]

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See detailSpecies delimitation and diversification in the widespread tree genus Milicia (Moraceae)
Daïnou, Kasso ULg; Mahy, Grégory ULg; Duminil, Jérôme et al

Conference (2013, June)

The long generation time and large effective size of widespread forest tree species can result in slow evolutionary rate and incomplete lineage sorting, complicating species delimitation. We addressed ... [more ▼]

The long generation time and large effective size of widespread forest tree species can result in slow evolutionary rate and incomplete lineage sorting, complicating species delimitation. We addressed this issue with the African timber tree genus Milicia that comprises two morphologically similar and often confounded species: M. excelsa, widespread from West to East Africa, and M. regia, endemic to West Africa. We combined information from nuclear microsatellites (nSSRs), nuclear and plastid DNA sequences, and morphological systematics to identify significant evolutionary units and infer their evolutionary and biogeographical history. We detected five geographically coherent genetic clusters using nSSRs and three levels of genetic differentiation. First, one West African cluster matched perfectly with the morphospecies M. regia, which formed a monophyletic clade at both DNA sequences. Second, a West African M. excelsa cluster formed a monophyletic group at plastid DNA and was more related to M. regia than to Central African M. excelsa, but shared many haplotypes with the latter at nuclear DNA. Third, three Central African clusters appeared little differentiated and shared most of their haplotypes. Although gene tree paraphyly could suggest a single species in Milicia following the Phylogenetic Species Concept, the existence of mutual haplotypic exclusivity and non-admixed genetic clusters in the contact area of the two taxa indicate strong reproductive isolation, and thus, two species following the Biological Species Concept. Molecular dating of the first divergence events showed that speciation in Milicia is ancient (Tertiary), indicating that long-living tree taxa exhibiting genetic speciation may remain similar morphologically. [less ▲]

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See detailDispersal and predation of diaspores of Coula edulis Baill. in an evergreen forest of Gabon
Moupela, Christian ULg; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

in African Journal of Ecology (2013), 52

The African walnut ( Coula edulis) is a tree species of African evergreen forests, the seeds of which are collected and traded by African people. Many animal species consume African walnut diaspores ... [more ▼]

The African walnut ( Coula edulis) is a tree species of African evergreen forests, the seeds of which are collected and traded by African people. Many animal species consume African walnut diaspores; however, their roles as dispersers or predators have yet to be clarified. In this study, we present observations conducted in two different habitats of a Gabonese region over a 3-year period. The originality of this research resides in the combination of three complementary approaches: (i) the use of camera-traps (ii) the exploration of land rodent burrows and (iii) the examination of elephant dung. In total, 408 camera-trap photographs have shown seven animal species involved in the dispersal/predation of C. edulis. Among these seven frugivorous species, the bush pig was found to be the main consumer and predator of seeds. Land rodents (Muridae) are potential predators, as they damaged the seeds and buried them deep in the soil. They may also play a role in the regeneration process as a result of the loss of seeds during transportation. Finally, no seeds appeared to emerge intact from elephant faeces. These results indicate that the natural regeneration rate of this tree species is low, unless other complex mecha-nisms are involved. [less ▲]

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See detailEcology of Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae), a Timber Species Considered as Endangered, in Southeastern Cameroon
Bourland, Nils ULg; Kouadio, Yao Lambert; Lejeune, Philippe ULg et al

in Biotropica (2012), 44(6), 840-847

Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae) is a tall tree of high commercial value of the moist semi-deciduous African forests. As a result of logging which started decades ago, it is considered as threatened and ... [more ▼]

Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae) is a tall tree of high commercial value of the moist semi-deciduous African forests. As a result of logging which started decades ago, it is considered as threatened and included on both IUCN Red List and CITES Appendix II even though essential biological parameters controlling its population dynamics remain unknown. This study aims at improving the knowledge of the species ecological parameters and at assessing the impact of selective logging on its populations in an 118,052 ha forest in Cameroon. After inventorying the species in 1,432 ha, mortality and growth were assessed over continuous 5- and 2-year periods in unlogged and logged areas, respectively. Phenology was monitored in the unlogged forest during 5 years. The population structure followed a bell-shaped curve. Mean annual diameter increments in both environments did not differ significantly between unlogged and logged areas. P. elata is a deciduous species that flowers at the end of the main dry season. The minimum reproduction and effective flowering diameters were, respectively, 32 and 37 cm. Fruit maturation took place during 7 months. With a minimum logging diameter of 90 cm, the recovery rate computed over a 30-year period was greater than 100%. Selective logging harvested only 12.1% of the total number of seed trees and had little influence on the species biological parameters. Securing sufficient regeneration as a post-logging action is probably the most important consideration for achieving long-term sustainability. Implications for the conservation status of the species are discussed at the regional level. [less ▲]

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See detailPericopsis elata (Harms) Meeuwen in Cameroon: Ecological Check-up of an Endangered Timber Species
Bourland, Nils ULg; Kouadio, Yao Lambert; Lejeune, Philippe ULg et al

Poster (2012, June 20)

Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae – assamela, afrormosia, kokrodua) is a high valued timber species of the moist semi deciduous African forests. Because of logging which started more than 50 years ago, it is ... [more ▼]

Pericopsis elata (Fabaceae – assamela, afrormosia, kokrodua) is a high valued timber species of the moist semi deciduous African forests. Because of logging which started more than 50 years ago, it is considered as threatened and included on both IUCN Red List and CITES Appendix II. Nevertheless, there is still little information available on the species ecology: essential biological parameters controlling its population dynamics remain unknown. Our study first aims at improving the knowledge of its main ecological parameters, then at assessing the impact of selective logging on its populations in a forest management unit in Cameroon (ca 120,000 ha). After inventorying the species (sampling rate of 1.2%), mortality and growth were assessed over continuous 5 and 2-year periods in unlogged and logged areas, respectively. Phenology was monitored in the unlogged forest during 5 years (leaf shedding and flushing, flowering, ripe and unripe fruiting). The population structure followed a bell-shaped curve. Mean annual diameter increments in both environments did not differ significantly between unlogged and logged areas (0.29±0.06 0.31±0.04 cm for unlogged and logged areas, respectively). P. elata is a deciduous species that flowers at the end of the main dry season (Marsh-April). The minimum reproduction and effective flowering diameters were, respectively, 32 and 37 cm. Fruit maturation took place during 7 months (the seed rain occurs in December-January), but all unripe fruits abort 3 years out of 5. With a minimum logging diameter of 90 cm, the recovery rate computed over a 30-year period was greater than 100%. Selective logging harvested only 12.1% of the total number of seed trees and had little influence on the species biological parameters. Securing sufficient regeneration as a post-logging action is probably the most important consideration for achieving long-term sustainability. [less ▲]

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See detailPhylogeography of african timber trees
Hardy, Olivier; Daïnou, Kasso ULg; Debout, Gabriel et al

Conference given outside the academic context (2012)

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See detailDéfinition du profil écologique de l'azobé, Lophira alata, une espèce ligneuse africaine de grande importance : synthèse bibliographique et perspectives pour des recherches futures
Biwole, Achille ULg; Bourland, Nils ULg; Daïnou, Kasso ULg et al

in Biotechnologie, Agronomie, Société et Environnement = Biotechnology, Agronomy, Society and Environment [=BASE] (2012), 16(2), 217-228

Over two decades, labors made in order to promote sustainable management of African tropical forests are tackled to the lack of knowledge about this complex ecosystem. Ecological parameters of timber ... [more ▼]

Over two decades, labors made in order to promote sustainable management of African tropical forests are tackled to the lack of knowledge about this complex ecosystem. Ecological parameters of timber species are no more studied, this complicates long-term sustainable forest management. This literature review related to the ecology and silviculture of ekki, Lophira alata Banks ex C.F.Gaertn. (Ochnaceae), a main African timber species recorded as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List, will serve as a study’s case. The planned literature review reveals the doubt about its taxonomy, as well as the lack of understanding concerning its reproductive biology, growth conditions, population dynamics parameters, and the spatial distribution of its genetic diversity. The deficiency of knowledge about its ecological needs and the factors which have historically influenced its population dynamics explain why most silvicultural trails provide hazardous and uncertain results. Remedying these gaps in order to improve its ecological characterization and innovative silvicultural trails, would be a significant contribution to the sustainable management of its populations. [less ▲]

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See detailStructuration de la diversité génétique du genre Milicia: taxonomie, phylogéographie, dynamique des populations
Daïnou, Kasso ULg

Doctoral thesis (2012)

Characterizing population genetic structure using phylogeographic approach contributes to understanding of evolutionary processes that affect plant populations. The present study investigated how past ... [more ▼]

Characterizing population genetic structure using phylogeographic approach contributes to understanding of evolutionary processes that affect plant populations. The present study investigated how past environmental variations can shape the spatial genetic diversity of an African timber tree species, Milicia excelsa (Welw) C.C. Berg. Given that plant responses to disturbances are closely linked to life history traits, this research also aimed to describe relationships between the reproductive traits of M. excelsa and its population genetic structure. Phylogeographic analyses were performed throughout the range of M. excelsa using nuclear and chloroplastic markers. Ecological characterization was conducted for a single population located in south-East Cameroon. Since M. excelsa is similar to the other species of its genus, M. regia (A. Chev) C.C. Berg, we first performed a morphogenetic comparison of these two taxa. The results confirmed an important morphological similarity between the two species with very rare discriminating criteria. In fact Bayesian assignment methods and reproductive isolation patterns suggest the occurrence of interspecific hybridization, which appeared to be unidirectional: hybrids displayed the M. regia morphotype. Because M. regia is known to be more adapted to humid tropical forests, one may expect it to occur in the Congo basin zone. However, its range is restricted to the western part of West Africa while M. excelsa occurs from Guinea-Conakry to Zimbabwe. Interestingly, in the case of M. excelsa, Central and West African specimens had no shared haplotype. This result was unexpected because long gene dispersal distances were found in Cameroonian populations, as expected from the behaviours of the main dispersal animals we identified, the bat Eidolon helvum and the parrots Psittacus erithacus and Agapornis swindernianus. In general, despite the likelihood for long distance seed dispersal, distinct genetic clusters were identified over West and Central Africa and their location may support the forest refugia hypothesis. In addition a phylogeographical signal was detected in chloroplast DNA indicating a prolonged separation between West and Central Africa populations with an accumulation of new mutations. At a smaller spatial scale, patterns of genetic structure also seemed to be weakly influenced by divergent reproduction times among sympatric individuals. The level of genetic diversity in the study populations falls within the range of values calculated for other tropical tree species. If phylogeography helps to infer population history, it also requires ecological or biological information to confirm some uncertainties. Such detailed data were often lacking to completely interpret numerous of our results. The present study raised new questions and led to new perspectives for further investigation both in phylogeography and botany. [less ▲]

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See detailPhenological patterns in a natural population of a tropical timber tree species, Milicia excelsa (Moraceae): evidence of Isolation By Time and its interaction with feeding strategies of dispersers
Daïnou, Kasso ULg; Laurenty, Eric; Mahy, Grégory ULg et al

in American Journal of Botany (2012), 99(9), 1-11

Population genetic structuring over limited timescales is commonly viewed as a consequence of spatial constraints. Indirect approaches have recently revealed existence of reproductive isolation due to ... [more ▼]

Population genetic structuring over limited timescales is commonly viewed as a consequence of spatial constraints. Indirect approaches have recently revealed existence of reproductive isolation due to flowering time (the so-called isolation by time, IBT). Since phenological processes can be subject to selection, the persistence of flowering asynchrony may be due to opposing selective pressures during mating, dispersal and regeneration phases. Our study aimed to investigate phenology, fruit-handling by animals and their interaction, in a timber tree species, Milicia excelsa. We analyzed phenological data collected over a 6-year period on 69 genotyped trees in a Cameroonian natural rainforest complemented by data from germination trials and field observations of dispersers. Initiation of flowering correlated with variation in temperature and relative humidity, but was also affected by genetic factors: pairwise differences in flowering time between nearby individuals correlated with kinship coefficient, and earliness of flowering remained stable over time. A decrease in mean seed production per fruit with increasing flowering time suggests selection against late bloomers. However, germination rate was not affected by seed collection date, and the main seed disperser, the bat Eidolon helvum, seemed to increase in abundance at the end of the reproductive season, and preferred trees in open habitats where early and late bloomers are expected. The pairwise approach performs well to detecting IBT. The persistence of different mating pools in such a case may result from a trade-off between selective forces during the mating and seed dispersal processes. [less ▲]

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