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Journal Articles Journal of Biogeography Year : 2018

Beyond trees: Biogeographical regionalization of tropical Africa

Bonaventure Sonké
Marc Sosef
  • Function : Author


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.

Dates and versions

hal-01883440 , version 1 (28-09-2018)



Vincent Droissart, Gilles Dauby, Olivier Hardy, Vincent Deblauwe, David Harris, et al.. Beyond trees: Biogeographical regionalization of tropical Africa. Journal of Biogeography, 2018, 45 (5), pp.1153 - 1167. ⟨10.1111/jbi.13190⟩. ⟨hal-01883440⟩
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