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Keywords:

  • Ficus;
  • growth habit;
  • habitats;
  • pollination;
  • populations

Abstract

Ficus species are found in all tropical habitats occurring as epiphytes or terrestrials, and dominate agricultural ecosystems as shade trees or live fencing. Ecologically, they are indicators of ground water and keystone species providing fruit for frugivores. Their pollination is highly specialized, the pollinating wasps having co-evolved with the host Ficus species. The study was conducted in Buganda where some species are integrated in the coffee/banana agriculture as shade trees, and a source of bark cloth or ‘olubugo’, a cultural Baganda cloth. Nine districts were surveyed covering fourteen forest and five savannah reserves, 22 farmlands and pastoral areas. Methods used were transect/quadrat, belt transects, total counts and opportunistic sampling. Altogether 32 out of the 44 species known from Uganda were recorded. The majority were epiphytic forest species, six obligate epiphytes were absent in cultivation where the most terrestrial species were recorded. Epiphytes showed no host preference, but grew on the largest or most common trees. Mean densities were the highest in drier forests and wetter savanna/cultivation and species richness indices followed the rainfall gradient. Only some forests had fairly stable populations. Species present in cultivation were sometimes absent in adjacent vegetation, and all those that survived in cultivation and savanna had known uses.