Floristic structure and diversity of a tropical montane evergreen forest (shola) of the Nilgiri Mountains, southern India

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Tropical Ecology


Abstract: We inventoried plants (≥ 1 cm diameter at breast height) in 19 montane evergreen forests (sholas) of total area 11.5 ha in the upper plateau (≈ 2000 m asl) of the Nilgiri Mountains in southern India. All plants meeting the size criterion were inventoried in sholas ≤1.26 ha, whereas in sholas >1.26 ha randomly laid 30×30 m (0.09 ha) plots were used. A total of 30495 individuals from 87 species, 65 genera and 42 families were recorded. Of these 57 species of trees, 13 lianas, 12 shrubs and 5 large herbs were recorded. Species diversity as measured by Fisher’s alpha was 11, stem density was 2652 stems ha-1 and basal area 59.4 m2 ha-1. Most species (67 : 77%) were common (densities > 1 stem ha-1), and widely distributed (36 : 41%) among sholas. The Nilgiri sholas shared 34 (47%) species with Kukkal shola located in the Palni hills, 150 km south of the study site. This suggests a common biogeographical heritage. The unique shola forest is endangered and needs to be conserved on a priority basis.

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