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Ecology of the pteridophytes on the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro: I. Altitudinal distribution

Ecology of the pteridophytes on the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro: I. Altitudinal distribution

Plant Ecology 159(2): 211-239

ISSN/ISBN: 1385-0237

DOI: 10.1023/a:1015569125417

140 taxa of 61 genera in 24 families of pteridophytes were recorded on the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. These represent about one third of the entire pteridophyte flora of Tanzania. The families richest in species are the Aspleniaceae, the Adiantaceae, the Dryopteridaceae, the Thelypteridaceae and the Hymenophyllaceae. Due to its luxuriant montane rain forest, which receives a precipitation of up to over 3000 mm, Mt. Kilimanjaro is distinctly richer in pteridophyte species than other volcanoes in East Africa. However, compared with the mountains of the Eastern Arc, the number of pteridophytes on Mt. Kilimanjaro is smaller. This can be explained by the widely destroyed submontane (intermediate) forest rather than by the higher age of the Eastern Arc Mts. The altitudinal distribution of all ferns was investigated in 24 transects. On the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro they were found in an altitudinal range of 3640 m. Cyclosorus quadrangularis, Azolla nilotica, Azolla africana and Marsilea minuta are restricted to the foothills, while Polystichum wilsonii, Cystopteris nivalis and Asplenium adiantum-nigrum are species found in the highest altitudes. Based on unidimensionally constrained clustering and on the analysis of the lowermost and uppermost occurrence of species, floristic discontinuities within the transects were determined. From these data and from an evaluation of the distribution of ecological groups and life forms, 11 altitudinal zones could be distinguished: a colline zone (-900 m asl), a submontane zone (900-1600 m asl) with lower and upper subzones, a montane zone (1600-2800 m asl) divided into 4 subzones, a subalpine zone (2800-3900 m asl) with lower, middle and upper subzones, and finally a (lower) alpine zone above 3900 m. The highest species numbers were observed in the lower montane forest belt between 1600 and 2000 m altitude. The zonation of ferns found at Mt. Kilimanjaro corresponds well with the vegetational zonation described by other authors using bryophytes as indicators in different parts of the humid tropics.

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