One of the most universal forms of resource-use in the tropics is small-scale wood exploitation; but ecologists are only starting to study its effects. This paper examines the effects of small-scale wood harvesting on forest structure and composition of mangrove forests. A stratified sampling method was used to select the sample zone. The forest characteristics were assessed by employing the quadrat/census plot method (Cintron and Schaeffer, 1984). To assess canopy structure, plot perimeter was used as a basis for line intercept sampling (Lertzman et al., 1996). Two-thirds of all canopy gaps were caused by human activities and this might have dramatic effects on regeneration because there were significantly more seedlings in canopy gaps compared with closed canopy areas.Rhizophora was the dominant species and formed a virtually monospecific stand in the coastline zone with a gradual transition to a mixed forest of Laguncularia, Avicennia andRhizophora. Ecological characteristics such as mean tree density, seedling density, mean diameter at breast height, basal areas and gap sizes differed among seaward, middle and landward zones. The findings from the present study highlight that the ecological effect of small scale wood exploitation is a potential threat to mangrove forest ecosystem health.
Key words: Cameroon, mangrove ecology, forest ecosystem health.
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