A large-scale inventory of liana diversity in tropical forests of South Eastern Ghats, India

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Systematics and Biodiversity


Among the plant life-forms, lianas, the wood climbers still remain less studied than trees. The forests of Eastern Ghats of India are also relatively under studied compared with the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. We conducted a large-scale, landscape-level investigation of liana diversity in six hill complexes of the South Eastern Ghats, which covers 4297 km2. We divided the study area into 6.25 km × 6.25 km grids and within each grid a 0.5 ha (5 m × 1000 m) transect was established and all lianas ≥1.5 cm diameter at breast height (dbh) were inventoried in 110 transects totalling a 55-ha area. Liana diversity totalled 143 species in 83 genera and 37 families in the 55 ha sampled. Of these 20 species (28.6%) were endemic to peninsular India and 7 (10%) species belonged to the rare and endangered category. Liana species richness ranged from 8–35 species and density 95–544 individuals per transect. A total of 32 033 liana individuals were enumerated in the 55 ha and the mean abundance was 291 individuals per transect. Across sites, liana abundance varied significantly, but not species richness and basal area. Asclepiadaceae (13 species, 9%) and Apocynaceae (11 species, 8%) constituted the most diverse liana families, followed by Papilionaceae, Vitaceae (10 each, 7%), Convolvulaceae, Mimosaceae, Oleaceae (8 each, 6%), Capparaceae, Rhamnaceae (7 each, 5%) and Menispermaceae (5 species, 3%). In liana stem size distribution, the lowest diameter class (1.5–3 cm dbh) accounted for greatest species richness (137 species, 96%), abundance (27 358 individuals, 85%) and basal area (13.5 m2, 36%). The stem twiners were the predominant climber type in terms of species richness (61 species, 42.65%), whereas the armed scramblers were abundant due to stem density (21 571 individuals, 67.34%). The dispersal modes of lianas, assessed by fruit types, revealed zoochory as the prevalent mode (85 species, 59%) indicating the faunal dependence of lianas in the Eastern Ghats landscape. Liana diversity of the Eastern Ghats was compared with inventories made across the tropics. With these baseline data generated on lianas, the importance of biodiversity conservation of the already fragmented South Eastern Ghats region is underlined and potential areas of further research on liana ecology are suggested.

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