Investigating the Vegetation–Soil Relationships on the Copper–Cobalt Rock Outcrops of Katanga (D. R. Congo), an Essential Step in a Biodiversity Conservation Plan

Authors

  • Layla Saad,

    1. Department of Forest, Nature and Landscape, Biodiversity and Landscape Unit, University of Liège, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech., 2 Passage des Déportés, Gembloux 5030, Belgium
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    • Equally contributing first authors

  • Ingrid Parmentier,

    1. Department of Forest, Nature and Landscape, Biodiversity and Landscape Unit, University of Liège, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech., 2 Passage des Déportés, Gembloux 5030, Belgium
    2. Department of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, Free University of Brussels, 50 Avenue F. Roosevelt CP 160/12, Brussels 1050, Belgium
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  • Gilles Colinet,

    1. Department of Science and Environmental Technology, Soil Science Unit, University of Liège, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech., 2 Passage des Déportés, Gembloux 5030, Belgium
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  • François Malaisse,

    1. Department of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, Free University of Brussels, 50 Avenue F. Roosevelt CP 160/12, Brussels 1050, Belgium
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  • Michel-Pierre Faucon,

    1. Department of Plant Ecology and Biogeochemistry, Free University of Brussels, 50 Avenue F. Roosevelt, Brussels 1150, Belgium
    2. Département d’agronomie, Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais (ISAB-IGAL), 15 rue Pierre Waget, Beauvais 60026, France
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  • Pierre Meerts,

    1. Department of Plant Ecology and Biogeochemistry, Free University of Brussels, 50 Avenue F. Roosevelt, Brussels 1150, Belgium
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  • Grégory Mahy

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forest, Nature and Landscape, Biodiversity and Landscape Unit, University of Liège, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech., 2 Passage des Déportés, Gembloux 5030, Belgium
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G. Mahy, email G.Mahy@ulg.ac.be

Abstract

Plant communities of soils naturally enriched in copper and cobalt in Katanga (D. R. Congo) are critically threatened in the short term due to mining activities. For biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration purposes, there is an urgent need to acquire more knowledge on those plant communities including their diversity and their relationships to environmental factors. The classification of 62 vegetation plots located in 6 metal-rich rocky hills in the Tenke Fungurume mining area resulted in 3 well-defined steppic and steppic savanna communities. Canonical analysis showed that the community comprising the largest proportion of strictly endemic metallophytes (i.e. species that only occur on metal-rich soils) developed in the soils with the most elevated concentrations of Cu and Co. However, contrasting species assemblages in the two other plant communities were explained by soil nutrients and percentage rocks in addition to heavy metal concentrations. The results of this study will assist with restoration efforts because they (1) provide a rigorous assessment of communities before a disturbance and (2) define essential edaphic conditions needed for the reestablishment of critical communities.

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