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Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 58–70 | Cite as

Anthropogenic pressure on structure and composition of a shola forest in Kerala, India

  • U. M. Chandrashekara
  • P. K. Muraleedharan
  • V. Sibichan
Article

Abstract

The montane closed evergreen forests found at altitudes above 1,800 m in the Western Ghats of India possess a distinct vegetation type and are called shola forests. Despite the fact that these forests are located in relatively inaccessible areas, they are still under anthropogenic pressure leading to continued habitat degradation and loss of biomass and biodiversity. A case study was conducted in Mananvan shola, the largest shola forest in Kerala of Western Ghats, to recognize the impact of disturbance on vegetation structure, composition and regeneration pattern, to identify the socio-economic reasons for disturbance and to evolve strategies for its management. In the disturbed part of the forest, dominance of light demanding species in tree, shrub and herb communities has been recorded. Here even the dominance of exotic species in tree seedling, shrub and herb communities is prominent. Skewed girth class distribution of tree community with poor representation by the individuals of girth class 30.1 to 90.0 cm, is also an indication of the collection of small wood and poles from the forest. The RISQ (Ramakrishnan Index of Stand Quality) in the disturbed area of the forest is above 2.0 as against near to 1.0 in relatively undisturbed forest stands suggesting that the disturbance is intensive and thus natural recovery process would be slow. Socioeconomic analysis in villages located near the shola forest revealed the fact that the people depended heavily on this forest for their livelihood. Thus, the crux and the success of future management and conservation strategy depend on how one can reduce the dependency of people on the shola vegetation. Enrichment planting in disturbed parts of shola, enhancement of firewood by raising energy plantations, as well as development of lemongrass and firewood based agroforestry systems and reduction of grazing pressure by developing silvopastoral systems are the major strategies for the conservation of these shola forests.

Key words

Anthropogenic disturbance montane forest shola forest species composition western ghats of India 

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Copyright information

© Science Press 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. M. Chandrashekara
    • 1
  • P. K. Muraleedharan
    • 2
  • V. Sibichan
    • 2
  1. 1.Kerala Forest Research Institute Sub CentreNilambur, ChandakunnuKerala
  2. 2.Kerala Forest Research InstitutePeechiIndia

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