Vegetation in many National Parks in Africa are undergoing severe transformation, largely due to anthropogenic stressors that are varied at different spatio-temporal scales. Understanding how plants respond to environmental disturbance and herbivory is critical to predict conditions that plant species assemblages will be most affected. The Mole National Park in Northern Region of Ghana is located in an area of high conservation concern, where disturbances appear to threaten its ecological integrity and consequently affect its tourism contribution to the economy of surrounding communities and at the national level. This study explored the key disturbances that influenced plant community assemblages among the five different vegetation types (woodland, shrubland, Savannah forest, riparian forest and boval vegetation) in the Park between January – December, 2017. Vegetation type here refers to as the characteristic dominant species or a common aspect of an assemblage in an area or a plant cover, plant community or ground full of different plants. A total of 125 plots of 16 m2 were laid across the five sites. Species abundance distribution (SAD) were quantified using the generalized Fisher’s logarithmic model, while CCA technique was performed to evaluate species responses to disturbance. A total of 1,023 individual species, belonging to 44 species and 19 families, were identified. Boval vegetation registered the highest individuals (n = 237), while the least was shrubland (n = 163). SADs generally did not differ in the five vegetation types. Two species (Terminalia avicennoides Guill. and Perr., Burkea africana Hook) were widely distributed in all the sites and constituted 40% of the total species sampled. Rarer species like Maytenus senegalensis Isoberlinia doka, Lannea acida and Terminalia mollis, were found only in the woodland and shrubland. Though the wood land was the most species rich, the boval vegetation was the most diverse (Renyi diversity (r) = 5.89 and α = 3.5, r = 3.39). Animal trampling, erosion, patchiness and tree felling, were the key predictors of community assemblages and accounted for 83.02% of the variability across the five sites. The findings highlights the threats like fire, erosion, animal trampling, and tree felling on the plant community that serve as forage and habitat for mammals. Thus, instituting an integrated conservation plan, should be of priority for Park managers, in order to restore the functional status of the plant community.
Keywords: Species abundance distribution, Renyi diversity ordering, rarefaction, canonical correspondence analysis, Mole National Park, diameter at breast height, basal area