Diversity and production of Ethiopian dry woodlands explained by climate- and soil- stress gradients

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Dry woodlands cover about 14% of the total African land surface and represent about 25% of the natural vegetation. They are characterized by a seasonal climate, with a dry season of 4–7 months. Large parts of these ecosystems are degrading due to grazing, fire or exploitation by people. We studied species richness and productivity patterns of dry woodlands in Ethiopia. For such ecosystems, classic productivity and diversity hypotheses predict that species richness and productivity increase as the wet season length increases, and decrease when soil conditions create water stress. We inventoried and measured trees in 18 2-ha plots distributed in two sites, one higher altitude site with a shorter wet season than the lower altitude site. We found that the stand volume per hectare was lower in the site with a shorter wet season. Across all 18 plots we observed that stand volume decreased with soil water stress (estimated from texture and depth). This was in line with the prediction. The species richness was lower in the short-wet-season woodlands, but was unaffected by variation in soil conditions. This suggests that climate driven constraints (wet season length) set the limits to species richness, and not soil conditions. As far as we know, this study is one of the first studies that evaluated these productivity and diversity hypotheses for dry African woodlands. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1509
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • species-diversity
  • altitudinal gradients
  • boswellia-papyrifera
  • deciduous forest
  • african savanna
  • rain-forest
  • costa-rica
  • frankincense
  • regeneration
  • communities


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