Agricultural land-use increases floral species richness in tropical dry forest and savannah ecosystems in West Africa.
The diversity and structure of plant communities are valuable indicators for assessing landscape quality. Land-use change is one of the main factors considered to affect and have the strongest impacts on biodiversity. In this study, we assessed the effects of the conversion of tropical dry forests and savannahs into agricultural lands on the floral diversity and the structure of the vegetation. For this purpose, we carried out vegetation surveys in 198 plots of 50 m × 50 m. Within each plot, we documented all herbaceous, shrubby, and tree species present. We calculated total, spatial, and local floral diversities by land-use types and characterized the structure of the plant communities. Our results show that the overall floral diversity of the study area remains quite high (483 species of vascular plants from 298 genera and 71 families) and was not strongly impacted by agricultural land use (Pareto inequality index is 23-77). Croplands had the highest spatial (9.4) and local diversities. There was no significant difference between the land-use types in terms of the native species richness while croplands harbored significantly the most alien species. Agricultural land use significantly affected the structure of the plant communities. Trees are very rare in croplands and are frequent in forests and savannahs. The clearing of Guinean dry forests and savannahs for cropping did not automatically lead to a loss of some aspects of ordinary floral diversity. For a better understanding of the effects of land-use change on biodiversity, it would then be more suitable to specify in the studies whether the species concerned are native, alien, generalist, or specialist.