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Tree community change in a tropical dry forest: the role of roads and exotic plant invasion

  • AYESHA E. PRASAD (a1) (a2)

Among the most endangered tropical ecosystems, tropical dry forests are threatened by degradation that includes edge effects arising from perturbations such as the creation and maintenance of roads and other clearings. While much is known about these adverse effects on tree communities in tropical moist forests, similar effects in tropical dry forests are little understood. This paper examines the relationship between roads, road-related exotic plant invasion and tree community change in a tropical dry forest in southern India. Forty pairs of roadside and interior plots across four factorial combinations of road width (wide and narrow) and understorey type (native and exotic) were sampled. Tree death and extant tree community composition were compared using generalized linear models and similarity analyses. Tree death near roads was more than double that away from them, suggesting that roads may increase tree death in these forests. The interactive effect of understorey type (exotic or native) and road width on tree death was significant, with highest tree death near wide roads bordered by exotic understorey. Conversely, tree community composition was influenced by road width and understorey type, but not by proximity to roads. Creation and maintenance of roads for forest management may have serious implications for tree communities in tropical dry forests and should thus be minimized. Exotic plants may also be important contributors to increasing tree death, and further research on their impacts, particularly into underlying mechanisms, is critical to the long-term conservation of tropical dry forest communities.

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*Correspondence: Dr A. E. Prasad e-mail:
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