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Ecological Determinants of Woody Plant Species Richness in the Indian Himalayan Forest

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Abstract

The ecological importance of woody plant species richness is well known. The role of abiotic ecological determinants on structuring the vegetation has been well studied. The present study evaluated the independent and integrated strength of the abiotic and biotic determinants in explaining species richness of woody plants in the Indian Himalayan forest. The primary field inventory data was collected using nested quadrat method (tree species at 10 × 10 m2, shrub species at 5 × 5 m2, and herb species at 1 × 1 m2 quadrats) for different life forms and for the abundance estimation within each 1 km transect. Each transect was laid in a 6.3 × 6.3 km2 grid on the study site. The biotic determinants included diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) and tree height, whereas the abiotic determinants were temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, relative humidity and elevation. A total of 302 woody plant species (233 genera and 53 families) were recorded from the field inventory. The woody plant species richness was found to range from 1 to 54 per ha at transect level. Structural Equation Model (SEM) evaluated different combinations of ecological determinants for woody plant species richness. The abiotic or biotic determinants were non-significant if considered independently; however, the integration of both resulted in a significant relation with woody plant species richness. The best combination of ecological determinants include density d.b.h. ≥ 2.5 cm, tree height, relative humidity, and elevation (R2 = 0.53). Overall, the integration of biotic and abiotic determinants better explained woody plant species richness in the Indian Himalayan forest.

Keywords

Ecological variability Species richness Structural equation model Himalayan forest 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the research grants from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India for the research Project Bioresource and Sustainable Development in Northeast India (BT/01/17/NE/TAX Dt 29 March 2018). The State Forest Departments of Assam, Sikkim and West Bengal are acknowledged for providing research permits in the respective forest areas. We also thank the State Biodiversity Boards of the above States and the National Biodiversity Authority of India for the support to carry out the research project. The assistance provided by Mr. Sonam Dorjee Bhutia and Mr. Passang Tamang is kindly acknowledged. We thank Dr. Sarala Khaling for facilitating the research work.

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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Royal EnclaveBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Manipal Academy of Higher EducationManipal, UdupiIndia
  3. 3.International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN)GlandSwitzerland

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