Floristic structure and diversity of a tropical montane evergreen forest (shola) of the Nilgiri Mountains, southern India
Abstract: We inventoried plants (â€šÃ¢â€¢ 1 cm diameter at breast height) in 19 montane evergreen forests (sholas) of total area 11.5 ha in the upper plateau (â€šÃ¢Ã 2000 m asl) of the Nilgiri Mountains in southern India. All plants meeting the size criterion were inventoried in sholas â€šÃ¢Â§1.26 ha, whereas in sholas >1.26 ha randomly laid 30âˆšÃ³30 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 Fisherâ€šÃ„Ã´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.