Changes in structural attributes of plant communities along disturbance gradients in a dry deciduous forest of Western Ghats, India
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- Anitha, K., Joseph, S., Ramasamy, E.V. et al. Environ Monit Assess (2009) 155: 393. doi:10.1007/s10661-008-0442-z
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Changes in tree and understory plant diversity and community composition in two sites at different disturbance levels were studied on the Anaikatty hills, Western Ghats. Systematic sampling using small scale permanent quadrates (50 × 20 m for trees, 5 × 5 m for shrubs/saplings, 1 × 1 m for herbs/seedlings) enumerated 3,376 individuals of trees (106 species), 8,599 of individuals shrubs (122 species) and 16,659 individuals of herbs (145 species). Among the two sites, species richness and diversity were highest for low disturbed stand (98 and 3.9, respectively) compared to high disturbed site (45 and 2.71, respectively). Result of cluster analysis showed that two distinct clusters were formed on the basis of disturbance of the area in concordance with our field observation. A total of 37 species were common to both sites, sixty one species exclusively found in low disturbed site and eight species were pertained to highly disturbed site. Mann–Whitney test based on Monte Carlo approximation at 95% confidence levels indicated that both populations were not entirely different. The clear difference was only observed for average basal area of trees, density of seedlings, number of species, density and diversity for shrubs and number of species and diversity for herb. The species composition were different in two stand i.e., Nothopegia racemosa–Albiziaamara–Maba neilghrrensis in low disturbed stand and Albizia amara–Pleiospermium alatum–Bauhinia racemosa in high disturbed stand. The major disturbance factors identification using spearman rank correlation indicated that the disturbance in low disturbed habitats were mostly from past logging followed by cutting and illicit felling and grazing, while in high disturbed habitats, it was human presence, past logging and lopping and fuel wood collection.