Section 14
Chapter 13,320

Biogeographic patterns of the East African coastal forest vertebrate fauna

Azeria, E., T.; Sanmartcn, I.-; Cs, S.-; Carlson, A.-; Burgess, N.

Biodiversity and conservation 16(4): 883-912


ISSN/ISBN: 0960-3115
DOI: 10.1007/s10531-006-9022-0
Accession: 013319296

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The archipelago-like coastal forest of East Africa is one of the highest priority ecosystems for biodiversity conservation worldwide. Here we investigate patterns of species richness and biogeographic distribution among birds, mammals and reptiles of these forests, using distribution data obtained from recently published reviews and information collated by the WWF Eastern Africa Coastal Forest Ecoregion Programme. Birds and mammals species were divided into forest specialists and generalists, and forest specialist reptiles into 'coastal' and 'forest' endemics. The species richness of birds and generalist mammals increased with area, and is probably a result of area-dependent extinction. Only in birds, however, species richness increased with decreasing isolation, suggesting possible isolation-dependent colonization. Forest diversity, associated to altitudinal range, is important for specialist birds and mammals, whose species richness increased with wider altitudinal range. The number of relict coastal endemic and forest endemic reptiles was higher in forests with wider altitudinal ranges and on relatively higher altitude, respectively. Such forests have probably provided a suitable (and perhaps stable) environment for these species through time, thus increasing their persistence. Parsimony analysis of distributions (PAD) and cluster analyses showed geographical distance and general ecological similarity among forests as a determinant factor in bird distribution patterns, with compositional similarity decreasing with increasing inter-forest distance. Compositional similarity patterns of mammals among the forests did not show a strong geographical correspondence or a significant correlation with inter-forest distance, and those of reptiles were not resolved, with very low similarity levels among forest faunas. Our results suggest that the relative importance (and causal relationship) of forest attributes affecting the distribution of the East African coastal forest vertebrate fauna varies depending on life history traits such as dispersal ability and forest specialization. The groupings in PAD are partly congruent with some of the previous classifications of areas of endemism for this region, supporting the 'naturalness' of these regions.

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