Tropical dry evergreen forests of peninsular India: ecology and conservation significance
Tropical Conservation Science
Tropical dry evergreen forests (TDEFs) occur as patches along the Coromandel coast of peninsular India. Investigations on plant biodiversity, bioresource values, and conservation status of 75 TDEF sites were carried out. A total of 149 woody plant species representing 102 trees, 47 lianas, and three native herbs were enumerated. Across 75 sites studied, species richness of woody plants ranged from 10 to 69 species. Physiognomically, evergreen species dominated the forest. Forest growth determined as girth increment ranged from 0.37 to 1.08 cm yr-1 for trees and 0.39 to 0.41 cm yr-1 for lianas. At the community level, seasonal flowering with unimodal dry season peak and year-round, bimodal fruiting pattern prevailed. A strong association between the qualitative reproductive traits and pollination and dispersal spectrum among the TDEF species has been demonstrated. In bioresource assessment, 150 medicinal plant species, used for treating more than 52 ailments, were documented. Site disturbance scores were obtained by assessing the various site disturbances such as site encroachment, resource extraction, grazing, fragmentation, weed invasion, etc. Conservation significance of the TDEF sites is emphasized in the light of restricted geographical distribution, moderate level of plant species diversity, representation of the unique forest type, high productivity, and bioresource potential. Restoring the disturbed sites with characteristic TDEF species, and revitalizing the cultural traditions associated with sacred groves by promoting awareness of the ecological and bioresource values of TDEFs, are recommended.