Nav: Home

Risk of tree species disappearing in central Africa 'a major concern,' say researchers

January 17, 2017

Human disturbance may often be criticised for harming the environment, but new research suggests a persistent lack of human attention in the central African forest could actually cause some tree species to disappear.

The study, from Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech - Université de Liège and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, both in Belgium, presents challenges to current practices in forest maintenance and suggests how more effective measures could be taken in future. The findings are published in the journal eLife.

"Populations of light-demanding trees that dominate the canopy of central African forests are currently aging. With previous studies showing that few young trees are growing to replace them, they are likely to disappear if the forests are not properly maintained. This is a major concern," says first author Julie Morin-Rivat.

In the current study, Morin-Rivat and her team set out to understand what has happened in the central African forest to stop the regeneration of the light-demanding trees.

Their analyses, which focused on four species in the northern Congo Basin, showed that most of the trees in these species were about 165 years old, meaning they all grew from young trees that settled in the middle of the 19th century.

They then combined information from a number of datasets and historical records to reveal that many people lived in the forest before this time, creating clearings that turned it into a relatively patchy landscape. However, from about 1850 onwards, when Europeans started to colonise the region, people and villages were moved out of the forests and closer to rivers and roads for administrative and commercial purposes. Additionally, many people died in conflicts or through emerging diseases.

"Fewer people in the forest meant it became less disturbed," Morin-Rivat explains.

"Human disturbance is necessary to maintain certain forest habitats and trees, including light-demanding species. As common logging operations do not create openings large enough to guarantee that such species will be able to establish themselves naturally, complementary treatments are needed. These might include selectively logging mature trees around young members of light-demanding species, or planting threatened species."
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Present-day central African forest is a legacy of the 19th century human history' can be freely accessed online at http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.20343. Contents, including text, figures, and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife is a unique collaboration between the funders and practitioners of research to improve the way important research is selected, presented, and shared. eLife publishes outstanding works across the life sciences and biomedicine -- from basic biological research to applied, translational, and clinical studies. All papers are selected by active scientists in the research community. Decisions and responses are agreed by the reviewers and consolidated by the Reviewing Editor into a single, clear set of instructions for authors, removing the need for laborious cycles of revision and allowing authors to publish their findings quickly. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust. Learn more at elifesciences.org.

eLife

Related Tree Species Articles:

150-year records gap on Sulawesi ends with 5 new species in the world's largest tree genus
Coming 150 years after the last description from Sulawesi, five new species from the world's largest genus of trees, Syzygium, highlight the extent of unexplored botanical diversity on the Indonesian island.
Reshaping Darwin's tree of life
In 1859, Charles Darwin included a novel tree of life in his trailblazing book on the theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species.
New species of tree living crab found in Western Ghats
A recent research paper in The Journal of Crustacean Biology reveals a new genus and new species of tree crab in Kerala, southern India.
Are tree nut allergies diagnosed too often?
A new study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows about 50 percent of those who thought they were allergic to all tree nuts were able to pass an oral food challenge without a reaction.
New species of Brazilian copepod suggests ancient species diversification and distribution
A new species and genus of a tiny freshwater copepod has been found in the Brazilian rocky savannas, an ecosystem under heavy anthropogenic pressure.
Genomic tools for species discovery inflate estimates of species numbers, U-Michigan biologists contend
Increasingly popular techniques that infer species boundaries in animals and plants solely by analyzing genetic differences are flawed and can lead to inflated diversity estimates, according to a new study from two University of Michigan evolutionary biologists.
Risk of tree species disappearing in central Africa 'a major concern,' say researchers
Human disturbance may often be criticized for harming the environment, but new research suggests a persistent lack of human attention in the central African forest could actually cause some tree species to disappear.
The best way to include fossils in the 'tree of life'
A team of scientists from the University of Bristol has suggested that we need to use a fresh approach to analyze relationships in the fossil record to show how all living and extinct species are related in the 'tree of life.'
Predicting extinction -- with the help of a Yule tree
In a new study published in Mathematical Biology Concordia University researchers show how the present-day distribution of physical traits across species can help explain how the evolutionary process unfolded over time.
The tree of life has its roots in Jena
Drawing on Darwin's theory of evolution, Ernst Haeckel created the first Darwinian phylogenetic 'tree of life' of organisms exactly 150 years ago in Jena, and published it in his major work, the 'General morphology of organisms'.

Related Tree Species Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...