West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania are famous for rich biodiversity and endemic species of plants and animals. Although there have been extensive studies on plant and animals species, little attention has been given on abiotic factors influencing their spatial distribution. Given rampant degradation of vegetation and associated consequence on biodiversity, knowledge on abiotic factors influencing distribution of species along the landscape become pertinent for conservation. A study was carried out to explore abiotic factors impacting plant and animals species distribution. Soil, landform and land use/cover were studied using grids of 20 m × 20 m using FAO Guidelines for Soil Profile and Habitat Descriptions. Soils were described, sampled for laboratory analysis. Spatial distribution of plant species were determined in the grids, and along the transects, every time estimating the percent cover and describing the habitat. Distribution of animal species was studied using both small mammals and rodent burrows as proxies. Trapping was done using different traps sizes, checking daily for animal caught, counting and re-trapping. Rodent burrows were estimated in same grids by examining a width of 0.5 m from end to end of grid and total number of burrows recorded. Determination of species distribution was done using GLM regression. Results show that species are influenced by elevation, which was common to both plants and animals. Topsoil soil depth was positive to plant species whereas hillshade, surface stones, cultivation and atmospheric temperature were negatively influencing plant species. Rock outcrops, surface stones and cultivation were positively influencing small mammals distribution. It is concluded that factors influencing distribution of small mammals are elevation, surface stones, rock outcrop and cultivation. Factors influencing plant species are elevation soil depth whereas cultivation, hillshade, surface stone and rock out crops negatively impact distribution. For conservation, it is recommended that the best steps are to stop human activities leading to depletion of plant species and accelerating soil erosion and allow for self-regeneration. Control of soil erosion strongly recommended as way of plant species re-establishment.
Part of the book: Pure and Applied Biogeography