Despite the fact that tropical dry forests are being exploited on a large scale for various forest products, there has been limited evaluation of the accompanying ecological impacts. In particular, there is no information on the effects of widespread biomass extraction such as grazing and firewood collection. A study was carried out in Sariska Tiger Reserve in northern India, to investigate the effects of biomass extraction on forest vegetation composition, diversity and structure. Biomass extraction caused significant changes in forest vegetation structure and species composition in the tree layer but the extent of these changes varied across the three major vegetation types found in the Reserve. Anogeissus-dominated slope forest showed significantly lower mean canopy cover, tree density, tree basal area and height of trees in disturbed sites in comparison to undisturbed sites. Riparian forest showed lower mean canopy cover, tree basal areas and number of recorded tree species in disturbed sites. Scrub forest had lower mean canopy cover, tree basal area and tree height. There were fewer tall trees but greater number of short trees in disturbed sites of all three vegetation types. Girths of trees similarly shifted towards lower values in riparian and scrub forest. In Anogeissus-dominated forest, disturbed and undisturbed sites did not differ in proportions of trees in various girth-classes. Tree species richness was substantially lower in disturbed sites of Anogeissus-dominated and riparian forest in comparison to undisturbed sites, but was not affected by disturbance in scrub forest. Understorey species richness was higher in disturbed sites of all three vegetation types but understorey changed structurally only in Anogeissus-dominated forest. Overall tree and understorey species composition was significantly different between disturbed and undisturbed sites of Anogeissus-dominated forest, but was unchanged in scrub and riparian forest. Observed changes in vegetation structure, diversity and composition of the different vegetation types due to biomass extraction have implications for biodiversity conservation in tropical dry forest ecosystems, and need to be addressed in future forest management planning.
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