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Beyond trees: Biogeographical regionalization of tropical Africa
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Aim To delineate bioregions in tropical Africa and determine whether different plant growth forms (trees, terrestrial herbs, lianas and shrubs) display the same pattern of regionalization, diversity and endemism as the whole flora. Location Tropical Africa (excl. Madagascar), from 20° N to 25° S. Taxon Vascular plants. Methods Analyses were based on occurrences of 24,719 vascular plant species distributed across tropical Africa extracted from the RAINBIO database. The majority of species (93%) were classified into four growth forms: terrestrial herbs, trees, shrubs and lianas. Biogeographical regions (bioregions) were delimited using a bipartite network clustering approach on the whole dataset and then separately for each growth form. Relationships among bioregions were investigated using non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination, flora nestedness and endemism patterns. Results Analyses of the whole dataset identified 16 bioregions and 11 transition zones. These were congruent with most of the currently recognized phytogeographical classifications, and also highlighted previously under-recognized bioregions. Bioregion endemism rates were lower and species richness higher when compared to estimates from the White/Association pour l'Etude Taxonomique de la Flore d'Afrique Tropicale (AETFAT) classification. Analysed separately, plant growth forms showed contrasting geographical patterns. Bioregionalization was better resolved for closed forest types using trees and lianas and for open vegetation types using terrestrial herbs, while shrubs showed good discriminative power in all vegetation types. Main conclusions We show that distribution patterns based on solely trees are not sufficient to define floristic bioregions in tropical Africa. Analyses of spatial patterns using different growth forms are complementary, likely reflecting different evolutionary processes and ecological relationships. The contribution of growth forms to delimit geographical floristic patterns across tropical Africa is of critical importance for land use planning and management, and for selecting priority conservation areas.
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Permanent link to this itemhttps://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12478/3201
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