Background and aims – Cola, the second largest genus of the Malvaceae-Sterculioideae comprises 100–135 small to large tree species confined in nature to African forests, though cultivated elsewhere. Current species distribution ranges show that the genus is highly diverse in the seasonally wet forests along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, including the Korup National Park (KNP). In this paper we examine the diversity and abundance of Cola in KNP compared to other forests for which comparable data are available. We also describe two novelties in the genus.
Methods – We used inventory data from a 50-ha permanent plot in southern KNP where all Cola trees and saplings down to 1 cm in diameter were tagged, mapped and identified. Additional collections of the genus came from the 11 km trail leading to the plot. Classic herbarium techniques and field observations were used for the morphological identification and description of specimens at MO and YA and from our personal collections. Cola species richness and abundance was estimated from the plot data and compared to other African forest sites for which comparable data are available. The evaluation of the conservation status of the two new species described in this paper followed the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.
Key results – Twenty-five species of Cola were identified in the southern part of the KNP, including four undescribed species, raising the total number of Cola species in Cameroon to 46. The abundance of the genus in KNP was three orders of magnitude higher than in the Rabi forest in southwestern Gabon or in the Ituri forest in eastern D.R. Congo. This high species richness and abundance suggests that KNP is part of the center of diversity of the genus. Two new species, Cola zemagoana Kenfack & D.W.Thomas and C. mamboana Kenfack & Sainge are described and illustrated. Both species are only known from the lowland rainforest of southwestern Cameroon. Cola zemagoana is narrow endemic of southern KNP and its conservation status is assessed as Endangered. Cola mamboana is confined to the lowland forests of southwestern Cameroon, is locally very abundant in protected areas and is also assigned the conservation status Endangered.
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