Biodiversity and population density of woody species in a tropical evergreen forest in Courtallum reserve forest, Western Ghats, India
Species diversity, density, population structure and dispersion patterns of all trees and lianas (ge30cm gbh) were inventoried in a tropical semi-evergreen forest in the Shervarayan hills of Eastern Ghats, south India. Such data are necessary for ecosystem conservation of the under-studied Eastern Ghats, as extensive forests here have already been converted to coffee and orange plantations and the landscape changed due to aluminium ore mining and quarrying. Four 1-ha plots were established in Sanyasimalai (SM) reserve forest of the Shervarayan hills, one plot (SM1) located close to mining and quarrying area, two other contiguous plots (SM2 and SM3) located in selective felling area and the fourth (SM4) in a relatively undisturbed forest. These are 1 to 4km apart in the same semi-evergreen forest tract. In the four study plots a total of 3260 stems (mean density 815haâ€šÃ„Ã¬1) covering 80 species in 71 genera and 44 plant families were recorded. Species richness was greatest in the undisturbed plot SM4 (50), while lowest (33) in the selectively felled site SM2. The forest stand (SM4) was also denser (986 stemshaâ€šÃ„Ã¬1) and more voluminous (basal area 44.3m2haâ€šÃ„Ã¬1 as compared with the site mean of 35m2haâ€šÃ„Ã¬1) than the other plots. Four trees, Chionanthus paniculata, Syzygium cumini, Canthium dicoccum and Ligustrum perrottetii dominated the stand, collectively contributing to >50% of the total density. Species richness and stand density decreased with increasing tree girths. The forest stand contained a growing population, but there was considerable variation in basal area distribution between the plots. Trends in species population structure varied, particularly for selective-felled species. Most species exhibited clumped dispersion of individuals both at 0.25ha and 1-ha scales. Variation in plant diversity and abundance are related to site attributes and human impacts.