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VEGETATION COMPOSITION, STRUCTURE AND PATTERNS OF DIVERSITY: A CASE STUDY FROM THE TROPICAL WET EVERGREEN FORESTS OF THE WESTERN GHATS, INDIA

  • A. Giriraj (a1) (a2), M. S. R. Murthy (a1) and B. R. Ramesh (a3)
Abstract

The composition, abundance, population structure and distribution patterns of the woody species having a girth at breast height of ≥ 10 cm were investigated in the tropical wet evergreen forests of the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in the southern Western Ghats, India. A 3 ha plot was established with an altitudinal range of 1170 to 1306 m. In the study plot 5624 individuals (mean density 1875 ha−1) covering 68 woody species belonging to 52 genera and 27 families were enumerated. The mean basal area was 47.01 m2 ha–1 and the Shannon and Simpson diversity indices were 4.89 and 0.95, respectively. Of these woody species nearly 51% are endemic to the Western Ghats. The four dominant species, Cullenia exarillata, Palaquium ellipticum, Aglaia bourdillonii and Myristica dactyloides, account for 34% of the trees and 67% of the basal area, and therefore constitute the main structure of the forest. Within this forest type, five species assemblages corresponding to altitudinal gradient were identified using correspondence analysis. Management of such mid elevation evergreen forests necessarily depends on knowledge of recognisable community types and their environmental variables. The present study provides essential background for formulating strategies for sustainable conservation of forest communities at the local level.

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