Patterns of Woody Plant Species Richness, Diversity and Structure along a Disturbance Gradient in the Atiwa Range Forest Reserve, Eastern Region, Ghana

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ABSTRACT The Atiwa Range Forest Reserve is one of the biodiversity hotspots in Ghana, but no comprehensive study has been carried out to assess the role of human disturbance on plant biodiversity in the area. The study was therefore, carried out to determine the effects of human disturbance on the patterns of woody plant species richness, diversity and structure in the forest. The study was carried out in three forest stands with varying human disturbance (Non-disturbed, moderately disturbed and heavily disturbed forests), within thirty 50 m × 50 m plots (10 plots in each forest stand). A total of 142 woody species belonging to 114 genera and 51 families were identified in three forest stands in the forest reserve. Trees constituted the most dominant woody plant species identified in the forest with Cedrela odorata, Allamblakia floribunda and Albizia zygia being the overall dominant species identified. In all the life forms, species richness decreased from the non-disturbed forest through moderately disturbed forest to the heavily disturbed forest. Tree diversity declined significantly with increasing disturbance. Liana diversity also differed significantly between the non-disturbed forest and heavily disturbed forest, and the moderately disturbed forest and heavily disturbed forest. For shrubs, the non-disturbed forest was significantly more diverse than the heavily disturbed forest while diversity between the other forest pairs did not vary significantly. The mean basal area of trees in the non-disturbed forest was higher than those of the other forest blocks. The mean liana basal area decreased with increasing disturbance. Plant densities also differed significantly among the forest stands. The pattern of plant density for both trees and lianas was similar to that of basal area of trees. The diameter distribution pattern for trees was irregular in all the forest types and that for lianas in the non-disturbed and moderately disturbed forests followed the inverted J shape. Canopy cover of trees was high in the non-disturbed forest than in disturbed forests. The disparity in the forest areas under studied is due to frequent human disturbances going on in the forest, thus compromising the ‘health’ of the Atiwa Range Forest Reserve,2011
A thesis presented to the Department of Theoretical and Applied Biology, College of Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of Master of Science in Environmental Science