Plant biodiversity inventory and conservation of two tropical dry evergreen forests on the Coromandel coast, south India
Biodiversity and Conservation
Natural vegetation on the south-eastern coast of Peninsular India has now been reduced to patches, some of which are preserved as sacred groves. The plant biodiversity and population structure of woody plants (>20 cm girth at breast height; gbh) in two such groves, Oorani and Olagapuram, occurring on the north-west of Pondicherry have been analyzed. A total of 169 angiosperms have been enumerated from both sites. The Oorani grove (3.2 ha) had 74 flowering plant species distributed in 71 genera and 41 families; 30 of them are woody species, 8 are lianas and 4 are parasites. The Olagapuram grove (2.8 ha) was more species-rich with 136 species in 121 genera of 58 families; woody species were fewer (21) while 9 lianas and 3 parasites occurred. The vegetation structure indicates that the Oorani grove is a relic of tropical dry evergreen forest, whereas Olagapuram is reduced to a thorny woodland. The latter is heavily degraded as it has lost the status of a sacred grove because of its conversion to Eucalyptus plantations. The Oorani grove has an Amman temple in the centre. The attendant cultural rites and religious rituals have perpetuated the status of a sacred grove which has ensured the protection of the grove.