Diversity and assembly of forest bird communities across a rainfall gradient in Central Africa

An understanding of basic patterns of community structure and how these relate to environment and human factors is key both for biodiversity theory and conservation practice. Biotic communities of West and Central Africa are particularly understudied which is especially unfortunate given the unique paleogeographic history of African forests and savannahs and the current threats from climate and land use change. In this project, we assess a regional biodiversity gradient across Guinea-Congolian Forests and Sudano Savannah biomes in Central Africa using forest bird communities as indicators, addressing diversity from a phylogenetic and functional viewpoint. We aim at describing hitherto unknown but basic bird community patterns such as taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity and structure, using own collected data from six lowland sites in Cameroon spanning from coastal evergreen, over moist semi-deciduous forests into the woodlands and open areas of the Sudano savanna. These sites essentially represent a rainfall gradient, varying in vegetational complexity with sites differing in biotic and abiotic factors. We wish to provide baseline data to understand the mechanisms behind the assembly process, such as eventual environmental (biotic filtering) as well as ecological interactions (such as competitive exclusion). We also wish to address eventual historical factors such as extinction, speciation or dispersal limitation. The study is the first of its kind in the Guineo-Congolian realm at this scale, especially for the multiple biodiversity dimensions we address.

This project is funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG, 509315005).

Involved researchers

Andres Angulo, Matthias Waltert, Holger Kreft (University of Göttingen), Kadiri Serge Bobo (University of Dschang, Cameroon)