The study was aimed at contributing to sustainable management of Ajei Highlands Watershed Community Forest, one of the vulnerable and highly threatened biological hotspots remaining within the Cameroon western highlands through an analysis of its woody species diversity and stand structure. The results of inventory of its 12 gallery forest patches through 17 permanent sample plots (20 m x 50 m) with multiple spatial scales subplots (1, 10 and 100 m2) using Whittaker plot sampling method showed that a total of 3644 individuals were recorded (124 species showing exclusive affinity to forest patches, 90 genera and 46 families). Diversity indices were 4.34 and 0.93 for Shannon-Weaver and Simpson indexes, respectively, indicating a highly diverse forest. The mean density was 1820 ± 24 stems/ha and the basal area 27.72 ± 0.04 m2/ha; with mean and maximum diameter of 9.3 and 140 cm, respectively. Species importance value index ranged from 0.35 to 35.19%, the most dominant species being Macaranga occidentalis, Xymalos monospora and Rauvolfia vomitoria. Euphorbiaceae, Apocynaceae, Moraceae and Rubiaceae were the most important families. Although this forest presented a high diversity and a certain floristic richness; few potentially commercial timber species were identified. Management options are prescribed within the framework of a participative management plan promoting watershed protection and habitat restoration, targeting livelihoods sustenance through agroforestry and reforestation activities favoring local tree species.
Key words: Woody diversity; watershed, gallery forest, community forest, Cameroon.
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