Diversity of tree-related microhabitats on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Tree-related microhabitats (TReMs) have been proposed as important indicators of biodiversity guiding forest management. However, their application has been limited mostly to temperate ecosystems and information on how the diversity of TReMs varies along environmental gradients is largely unknown.

In this study, we assessed the diversity of TReMs on 180 individual trees and 48 plots alongside a large environmental gradient on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We adjusted a previous typology to suit tropical forests and developed a tree-climbing protocol to obtain quantitative information on TreMs on large trees and dense canopies. We computed the effective diversity of TReMs for each individual tree and plot and tested how TReM diversity was associated with properties of individual trees and environmental conditions in terms of climate and human impact. We used non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) to investigate the composition of TReM assemblages alongside the environmental gradients.

We found that diameter at breast height and height of the first branch were the most important determinants of TReM diversity on individual trees. At plot level, we found that TReM diversity increased with mean annual temperature and decreased with human impact. Composition of TReMs showed a high turnover across the gradients in climate and human impact.

Our study demonstrates a first application of the concept of TreMs to tropical ecosystems. The importance of tree size and architecture in fostering microhabitat diversity underlines the importance of protecting large veteran trees. Diversity and composition of TReMs are sensitive to climate and land-use effects, suggesting that they can be used to monitor consequences of global change on forest biodiversity.

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Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Geographic coverage
Geographic description Southern slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Bounding coordinates
North: -2.75
West: 37.0
East: 37.7167
South: -3.4167
Temporal coverage
Time period
Begin: February 1, 2022
End: April 1, 2022
Time period
Begin: August 1, 2022
End: November 1, 2022
Time period
Begin: January 20, 2023
End: April 10, 2023
Taxonomic coverage
Kingdom Plant
General taxonomic description Data on microhabitat diversity was collected on a series of plant species on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Other info
Last Updated April 11, 2024, 12:23 (UTC)
Created April 11, 2024, 12:16 (UTC)

Responsible parties

Creator and point of contact
Name Giovanni Bianco
Organization affiliations

Associated party
Name Matthias Schleuning
Organization affiliations

Role Principal investigator

Associated party
Role Author

Associated party
Name Andreas Hemp
Organization affiliations
University of Bayreuth

Universitätsstraße 30
95447 Bayreuth

Role Author

Research data management planning

Types of data that will be / are / were created during the project Numeric (spreadsheet, measurements, etc.) , Models, code
Estimated volume of created data <1GB
Data will be stored at (long-term archived) On public repositories

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