Resource Details

Succession and regeneration patterns of East African mountain forests. A Review

Literature: Journal Articles

Bussman, R. 2001, "Succession and regeneration patterns of East African mountain forests. A Review", Systematics and Geography of Plants, vol. 71, nos. 2, pp. 959-974.

Contact Info

Rainer Bussmann, rainer.bussmann@uni-bayreut


  • Universitat Bayreuth, Lehrstuh fur Pflanzenphysiologie Bayreuth, Germany


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Species Info

  • Cassipourea malosanae
  • Juniperus procera
  • Macaranga kilimandscharic
  • Neoboutonia macrocalyx
  • Ocotea sp.
  • Ocotetea usambarensis
  • Olea capensis ssp. hochstette
  • Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata
  • Podocarpus latifolius


  • This study reviews the succession and regeneration processes in East African Mountain forests including Kenyan Mountain forests as well as important areas of Ethiopia. This study draws from a previous study by Busssman & Lange (1999).
  • From the previous studies, phytosociological analysis of the East African forests, from 1992-1993 relevés were established and analyzed according to the methods of Braun-Blanquet (1964) and Mueller-Dombois & Ellenberg (1974), as slightly modified by Hammen et al. (1989). All relevés were sampled at least twice and in different seasons.
  • A review of the regeneration cycle and succession patterns in Ocotetea usambarensis showed a great variety of the species, mostly very old Ocotea trees approximately 300-600 years of age with diameter 1.2-3.5m. Regeneration of Ocotea by seedlings is very rare, but numerous saplings originating from old roots of a fallen tree, no longer suppressed by the mother tree starts growing. Seedlings and young specimens of the other tree species of the O. usambarensis were found everywhere, indicating exceptive character of Octotea itself.
  • Old populations of O. usambarensis die and in the mosaic of gaps created Macaranga kilimandscharica starts growing as secondary species. M. kilimandscharica plays an important role as shade tree for Ocotetea saplings that cannot tolerate full sun. After the breakdown of the short-lived Macaranga trees, the Octotetea trees close the gap and shade out and prevent germination or establishment of the Macaranga trees.
  • Furthermore, in Ethiopia Ocotea usambarensis is not present, it is replaced by Ocotea kenyensis. Not much data is available on the regeneration of this species.
  • Large scale heavy logging that results in numerous large gaps at once prevents Ocotea regeneration. These large gaps are succeeded by Macaranga and at higher altitudes by Neoboutonia macrocalyx. These manmade gaps does not help to regenerate Ocotea. Hence the possibilities for regeneration to primary forest are unknown, and would require very long time spans, and a complete stop to logging around the gaps to allow colonization.
  • Two vegetation alliances, the Cassipourea malosanae and the Juniperus procera make up the Juniperetalia procerae. C. malosanae regeneration follows a dynamic pattern with no clear indications of a regenerative cycle. J. procera on the other hand occurs only sporadically in the Cassipourion forests as its regeneration is suppressed by heavy shade and dense vegetation covering the forest floor. Regenerating J. procera was only found in gaps receiving bright sunlight.
  • In contrast to C. malosanae fire plays an important role in the regeneration cycle of J. procera. After fire J. procera seedlings invade the gap leading to a regenerating forest with Olea capensis and O. europaea and Olinia rochetiana become established too. After 20 years the Juniperus are 9m high and when closed canopy is established the Cedar trees start to outgrow the other species reaching about 10m after 80-90 years.
  • Hagenia abyssinica was predominantly found in the drier areas and more frequently burning areas. This was observed by the uniform age of the Hagenia stands, suggesting that regeneration in these forests occurs suddenly after a disturbance.

Geographical Region

  • East Africa
  • Ecosystems

  • Montane Forest
  • Country

  • Kenya
  • Ethiopia
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