The Eastern arc mountain forests of Tanzania: Their role in biodiversity, wateresource conservation, and net contribution to atmospheric carbon.

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North Carolina State University


Mountain forests play major ecological and environmental roles. This study evaluated the roles of the Eastern Arc Mountain forests of Tanzania in conservation of biodiversity, water resources, and net contribution to atmospheric carbon. The major objectives were three-fold: (1) the classification and description of plant community composition, diversity patterns, and their environmental correlates, (2) assessment of biomass and carbon pool in the phytomass and soils, (3) assessment of rainfall interception throughfall, stemflow, streamflow, and their correlation with rainfall. Data on vegetation, topography, soils, and hydrology were collected from the Usambara and Uluguru ranges. Using cluster analyses, Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMS) ordination, and indicator species analyses, five different plant communities were identified on each range. These communities were associated with two topographic and fourteen edaphic factors. Elevation was the strongest correlate of community composition in individual ranges, followed by several edaphic factors. Landform index and soil sodium concentration [Na] play major roles in separating plant communities between different mountain ranges. The proportions of rare species were high raising a conservation concern as to whether this is evidence of species’ declines or a biological characteristic. The forests have tremendous capacity for C storage both in the phytomass (517 ± 17 t ha’1 in the Usambaras and 384 ± 10 t ha’1 in the Ulugurus), and in the soil (420 ± 100 t ha’1 in the Usambaras and 290 ± 53 t ha’1 in the Ulugurus). Phytomass C was higher in mid elevation communities while high elevation communities had higher soil carbon, and total carbon. Rainfall interception was 23% in the Usambaras and 20% in the Ulugurus. Throughfall was more than 76% in both forests and stemflow was less than 2%. Streamflow was best modeled using three or more months running mean rainfall. The results suggest that plant community patterns in the Eastern Arc are associated with a complex of topographic and edaphic factors. This complex of factors is an important consideration in restoration and conservation programs. Attention to rare species is especially important. The forests havesubstantial capacity for carbon emission mitigation. The slow response in streamflow to rainfall events shows the efficiency of the forests to store water, mitigate storm water impacts by reducing runoff, delaying onset of peak flows, and ensuring constant water supplies.


PhD Thesis


Eastern arc mountain forests, Biodiversity, Water Resource Conservation, Atmospheric Carbon, Net Contribution, Mountain forests