Factors Affecting Recruitment of a Critically-Endangered Dipterocarp Species, Vateria indica in the Western Ghats, India
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Vateria indica is a critically-endangered and economically-important tree endemic to the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot in India. Due to extreme local endemism and anthropogenic destructive harvesting of resin, the species is categorized as critically endangered. The present study investigated the biotic limiting factors of recruitment of V. inidica in its natural populations, and studied the pattern of anthropogenic harvest of nuts of V. indica in the recent past. Seed predation and seedling herbivory particularly by insects were assessed. The sustainability of the nut harvest was assessed by conducting pre- and post-harvest censuses of nuts on forest floors. Over 90 % of the fruits of V. indica were infested by the insects, but, only about 10 % of the infested fruits were seed-predated. Seedling herbivores included a leaf miner, ants of two species, and larvae of a lymantrid moth. Seedling mortality due to herbivores was moderate (45.5 %). Pre- and post-harvest censuses showed that only 3.81 % of the fruits that were naturally-fallen on the forest floor were spared after the harvest had taken place. Sringeri has exported 820 metric tons of nuts in the study year, which was an all-time high estimate. The study concludes that the anthropogenic nut collection can hamper the population structure of V. indica locally. Since V. indica has an alternate-year major flowering cycle, the seed loss as seen in the present study is critical. Raising plantations of V. indica as an afforestation program can contribute to the conservation of the species and the development of local communities.
KeywordsDipterocarpaceae Anthropogenic nut collection Non-timber forest products NTFP Seed predation Seedling herbivory
The authors thank all the participated farmers, middleman traders, whole sale dealer and LAMP society officials of Koppa and Sringeri taluks for their cooperation. Support for the study was provided by the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi and Conservation, Research and Exploration Committee of the National Geographic Society, Washington DC. The authors declare no conflict of interest. They thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments in the previous versions of this paper.
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