Salim Ali School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry 605 014, INDIA.
Ecological research on floristic diversity, tree distribution, forest structure and population changes etc. are inadequate from the tropical dry evergreen forests of peninsular India, as compared to the other types of tropical forests in India. This focal research has generated quantitative information on tree diversity and short-term population changes in five 1-ha permanent plots.
Conservation of small patches of tropical dry evergreen forest such as those the present study sites would be justified, because they harbour a moderate tree species richness (60 species), high mean tree density (935 stems ha-1) and moderate basal area (mean, 18.14 m2 ha-1). Tree diversity in tropical forests varies greatly from place to place. mainly due to variation in biogeography, habitat and disturbance. Compared to other world's tropical dry evergreen forests, tree diversity in the studied peninsular India is very low.
The studied sites, being sacred groves, are associated with the traditional culture of the local people and they also support insects, birds, reptile and mammals, many of which help in forest functioning pollination and seed dispersal, etc.), although there are at the same time human impacts in the form of resource removal (firewood, cattle and goat grazing/browsing, etc.). Human disturbance patterns also affect the structure and composition of forest sites. It is important that people realize the values of these patches of forests and make low levels of resource extraction in a rational manner which would facilitate sustainable resource use. In the light of the extant biodiversity, forest patches coupled with human disturbance, and also the cultural tradition associated with the local people, the need for conservation of the sites is evident.