Plant species diversity and tree population structure of a humid tropical forest in Tamil Nadu, India

Author(s): Swampy PS, Sundarapandian SM, Chandrasekar P, Chandrasekaran S


Vegetation structure and species composition of tropical ecosystems were studied through nine transects at Veerapuli and Kalamalai reserve forests in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, India. Species diversity, dominance, species richness and evenness indices of plant communities and also population structure of woody plants were enumerated. A total of 244 species (183 genera and 76 families) were recorded. Species richness (number of species) were 82,142 and 96 species per 0.3 ha respectively for the study areas of low-elevation forest (LEF), mid-elevation forest (MEF) and high elevation forest (HEF). Species diversity indices were greater in MEF compared to the other two forests except juveniles. In contrast, greater dominance value indices were recorded in LEF than other forests. Density and basal area of the MEF were twice greater than the LEF, while HEF showed greater tree density and low basal area when compared to LEF. The stem density and species richness (number of species) decreased with increased size classes of trees observed in the present study indicated good regeneration status. Population structure of juveniles and seedlings also reflects good regeneration status. Terminalia paniculata (IVI of 99.9) and Hopea parviflora (IVI of 103.8) were dominant tree species respectively in LEF and MEF whereas in HEF Agrostistachys meeboldii (63.65), Cullenia excelsa (63.67) and Drypetes oblongifolia (39.67) share the dominance. Past damage (anthropogenic perturbation) may be one of the reasons for single species dominance in LEF and MEF. Occurrence of alien species such as Eupatorium odoratum and Ageratum conyzoides also indicated the past disturbance in LEF. The variations in plant diversity and population structure are largely due to anthropogenic perturbation and other abiotic factors.

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