Contribution of sacred forests to biodiversity conservation: case of Adjahouto and Lokozoun sacred forests in southern Benin, West Africa
In the current context of the rapid changes of land cover and land use in Benin, sacred forests are thought to be sanctuaries of biodiversity and representative of primary vegetation. In order to assess the contribution of sacred forests to phytodiversity conservation, this study was carried out in Adjahouto and Lokozoun sacred forests located in the southern region of Benin. Phytosociological relevés were done in 25 circular plots of 18 m radius. Based on the species red list of Benin, threatened species found in Adjahouto and Lokozoun sacred forests were identified. Moreover, socio-economic survey of local residents allowed highlighting the factors that could impede the contribution of sacred forests in biodiversity conservation. Regarding plant diversity, a total of 75 species (68 tree species and 7 herbaceous species) distributed in 70 genera and 40 families were determined in the sacred forests of Adjahouto and Lokozoun. The plant communities Shannon diversity index ranged from 2.64 to 3.26 bits. The proportion of endangered species represented 8% in the Adjahouto sacred forest and 12% in the Lokozoun sacred forest. Phanerophytes were the dominant life forms in the two sacred forests. The Guineo-Congolese species were the most abundant (50% in Adjahouto and 41.38% in Lokozoun) and the most dominant (46.54% in Adjahouto and 90.27% in Lokozoun). The chorotype compositions showed that the Adjahouto and Lokozoun sacred forests still keep their primary vegetation and thereby enhance the global biodiversity conservation in Benin.
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Keywords: Biodiversity, phytosociology, conservation, threatened species, sacred forests, Benin
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