Rationale

Forest Management is essential for preserving forest ecosystems and forest ecosystem services for sustainable benefits. This requires detailed information on the existing patterns and processes that govern the ecology of species and the system of which these species are parts. Our goal is to understand these ecological processes and patterns and to develop accordingly clear and applicable management policies for forest managers and decision makers.

Foci

  • Biodiversity
  • Plant assemblages
  • Functional ecology
  • Plant-animal interaction
  • Organism-climate interaction
  • Disturbance regime and Forest dynamics
  • Soil-plant interaction
  • Ecology of Invasion
  • Successional Ecology
  • Ecology of reforestation
  • Regeneration ecology
  • Seed ecology and propagation tests
  • Eco-physiology
  • Remote sensing
  • Ecosystems services modelling.

PhD research

Population ecology, uses pattern and conservation of the dioecious palm tree Borassus aethiopum Mart. (Arecaceae) in Benin (West-Africa)

Borassus aethiopum Mart. is a common dioecious wild palm species native to Africa. B. aethiopum has high subsistence importance for local people and is a characteristic species of traditional agroforestry landscapes especially in semi-arid and sub-humid zones. There is however increasing concerns on overexploitation of the species by local people over its distribution range. Yet we know little about actual effect of how uses pattern affect the species conservation. Today, most of research have focused on its uses pattern and properties of its stem in construction. Besides, in protected areas where it may be thought to be out of pressure and then well conserved, it may also be threaten by overexploitation by elephants who feed on it. To guide actions toward sustainable management and conservation, this PhD research aims to: (i) identify factors determining distribution and abundance of B. aethiopum, (ii) assess how B. aethiopum interacts with other tree species (plant-plant interactions) in natural ecosystems along a climate gradient, (iii) assess uses diversity and preferred plant part by local people and how these correlate with socio-demographic characteristics of users and the species availability, (iv) assess how harvest intensity of preferred plant part combined with land use types affect structure and spatial arrangement of B. aethiopum individuals, (v) investigate pattern of elephants utilization and impacts on B. aethiopum conservation in protected areas and (vi) assess morphological and genetic diversity and relatedness among B. aethiopum populations. The study is being conducted in Benin, a West African country where three contrasting climatic conditions (humid sub-humid, dry sub-humid and semi-arid) are distinguishable. The country also has a good protected areas network including the Pendjari National Park where both elephants and B. aethiopum co-occur. For more details, contact Kolawolé Valère SALAKO

Sustainable use and conservation of Mimusops species in Benin: study of ecology, structure and dynamics

Mimusops andongensis Hiern and Mimusops kummel Bruce ex A. DC (Sapotaceae) are two tropical underutilized multipurpose species that naturally occur in Africa. A study has categorized Mimusops andongensis as a potential commercial species in Lama classified forest, the most important dense semi-deciduous forest of Benin. Mimusops kummel is a national marketable fruit tree in Ethiopia and has been chosen as a priority species for the development of indigenous fruit trees in Eastern Africa for improved livelihoods. The use of Mimusops andongensis and Mimusops kummel led to a permanent pressure on their natural populations. Moreover, hard ecological conditions negatively impact their regeneration and growth. They are found in several types of natural habitats which are dense forest and, gallery and riparian forests. These natural habitats are also highly threatened because of the remarkable pressure of particularly local communities and the shifts in the climate change. In Benin and Togo for example, some studies classify them as endangered species. Their uses by local communities, along with their vulnerable status, require a better understanding of their general autecology as the foundation for effective decisions concerning their valorisation and conservation. This study aims to: (i) Identify the exploited plant parts and their uses; (ii) Assess the ecological factors underlying the geographic distribution of Mimusops species in Benin; (iii) Characterize the structure and morphology of Mimusops species according to ecological gradients; (iv) Describe the spatial distribution of the species individuals in their natural habitats; (v) Characterize the growth dynamics of Mimusops species in their habitats and; (vi) Assess the controlled propagation of the species in Benin. For more details, contact Gisèle SINASSON

Conservation and ecological adaptations of black plum (Vitex doniana Sw., verbenaceae) to climatic conditions in Benin

In the context of climate variability and change, it is recognized that ecosystems and their living organisms are facing unpredictable events. The big challenge therefore, is how these organisms and ecosystems adapt to these changes for their survival and at the same time ensure ecosystem goods and services provision for humans’ well-being. Assessing these strategies can be seen as a big step towards taking into account of climate variability and change in the process of plant species domestication. Through this research project, we are using Vitex doniana, an important agroforestry species occurring in various habitats, as target species to understand some of these adaptive solutions. In Benin, V. doniana is one of the important wild fruit species valued by local people and for which sustainable use and conservation strategies are required. Knowing under which ecological conditions the species occurs, how it adjusts its biology to climatic conditions and where it could be preferably domesticated is an important step towards its integration into forma production systems. This research project aims at assessing the conservation status and some of the mechanisms used by V. doniana to fit in various habitats mainly regarding climatic conditions. Specifically, it intends to: (i) capitalize the ethnobotanical values of the species and trends for its conservation; (ii) assess the ecological conditions under which it occurs and characterize the structure of its populations; (iii) evaluate its morphological traits according to climatic zones; (iv) analyze its wood anatomy mainly vessels size distribution in relation to climatic conditions; and (v) model the present and future potential ecological niches of the species and assess the effectiveness of its protection by the national protected areas network of Benin. For more details, contact Achille HOUNKPEVI

Management strategy of endangered timber species in Benin: prioritization and population viability analysis

Forests and protected areas in West Africa are valuable cultural landscapes. They provide a wide range of ecosystem services for human well-being. Besides agricultural activities, harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products (NTFP) is crucial for household income, food, and health. To maintain these important ecosystem services, some frequently used tree species are spared when land is cleared for agriculture. However, most indigenous timber species are affected by high anthropogenic pressure. The ongoing exploitation of natural resources affects plant population structure. Though Benin is a moderate forest country with vegetation dominated by savannahs and woodlands, forest logging takes an important place in population activities around protected areas. This situation could be explained by population increase, poverty, agriculture, etc. Many species are used in forest exploitation, yet very low information is available in their sylviculture. To fill this gap, this PhD project aims to (i) document the current timber species involved in logging according to climatic zones ; (ii) prioritize timber species involved in logging in order to propose a national conservation strategy; (iii) assess the combine effect of land use and climate on population structures of the two priorities timber species; (iv) conduct germination tests and seedling growth of the two priorities timber species; (v) document the diversity of pollinators and local perception on ecosystem services provided according to different habitats in Benin ; (vi) model extinction probability of priority species according to the intensity of logging. The findings of this research will help to redefine reforestation program in Benin. For more details, contact Jean Didier AKPONA

African wild palms: knowing their distribution, uses, threats and gaps in their conservation in Benin (West Africa)

Tropical areas harbor most of global biodiversity, but they also frequently hold burgeoning human populations. As a result, increasing demand for food, fuel, and land for agriculture exerts high pressure on limited resources. All of these factors are under the additional pressure of climate modification over recent decades and into the future. Palms raise non-timber forest product potential, as they represent a very important botanical family throughout the tropics and subtropics. They rank among the most commonly mentioned plant families in the ethnobotanical literature and constitute keystone resources for subsistence of local people. Unfortunately palm distributions in the tropics are particularly poorly documented and their uses are not well known. All these contribute to a raise of the threats on the species and shorten their ability to meet the increasing demand of commercially important species’ organ. This study aims to assess the impacts of biotic and abiotic factors on wild palms conservation in Benin. Specifically it aims to: (i) illuminate the distributions of native, medium to wide-ranging, wild palm species, (ii) assess the diversity of uses and the factors affecting wild palm uses in Benin, (iii) assess the spatial patterns and the threats on the species, and (iv) test for effective propagation of the species. For more details, contact Rodrigue IDOHOU

Uses, Ecology and Conservation of raffia’s palms in Benin (West Africa)

Raffia’s palm species such as Raphia hookeri, Raphia vinifera and Raphia sudanica are used by local populations for food, construction and craft industry. But these palms may be threatened because of overexploitation and habitat loss. This PhD research aims to assess (i) how uses of raphia palm species are related to local people socioeconomical characteristics, (ii) how land-use type and harvest intensity of wine and rachis from raffia species affect their population’s structure. This research is expected to provide indication on the status of the raffia populations and to estimate to what extent their actual use is sustainable. For more details, contact Marcel DONOU