Distribution and Composition of Herbaceous Plants in Response to Arable Cultivation and Local Topographical Variation in the Nigerian Northern Guinea Savannah

Toma Buba

Abstract


This study examined  the pattern of distribution and composition of herbaceous plant species with respect to  cultivation and local topographical variation in the Nigerian northern Guinea Savannah. Data on plant species was collected using quadrats. Soil samples were collected using cores and analyzed for Total Nitrogen (%), Available Phosphorus (mg kg-1), Exchangeable Potassium (cmol (+)  kg-1), pH, Organic Carbon (%) and soil textural class. Arable cultivation practices create uniquely different plant communities on contiguous plots but of different local topography in terms of species composition as shown by the  Jaccard's Dissimilarity Index and dominance by the Important Value Index (IVI). Cultivation affects species attributes of plant communities in different ways on different local topography. Species diversity, species richness and their abundances were decreased by cultivation on Flat and Highlands but increased on Lowland, while species evenness was relatively unaffected by the combined impacts of cultivation and local topographical variation. The Lowland topography was the strongest local environmental force of selection of plant community composition and structure in terms of dissimilarity. Studies on the impact of the combined forces of topography and cultivation on plant communities are still very scanty to make global cross-biome comparisons and conclusion. Understanding the impacts of cultivation, topography and other edaphic variables in shaping floristic structure of plant communities will contribute not only to the understanding of the mechanisms determining plant community distribution and composition but also provides information necessary for their future prediction. This is an indispensable tool for environmental planning for biodiversity conservation, especially in the face of the current unprecedented environmental crisis, namely climatic change-induced drought and desertification. 

Keywords


Dissimilarity; Evenness; Highland; Nigeria; Phosphorus; Potassium; Organic Carbon; Savanna,; Species Composition

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