Salim Ali School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry 605 014, INDIA.
This focal research on tree diversity inventory of a large-scale permanent plot in a tropical evergreen forest of Indian Western Ghats has generated information about tree species richness, stand density and short-term population changes. The tree diversity data of Varagalaiar forest suggests that this site is one of the most diverse forests in peninsular India, and is moderately diverse when compared to many other tropical forests of America and South-east Asia. Dipterocarpaceae dominates Varagalaiar forest in the large size classes of trees, and Euphorbiaceae in the smaller size classes. Changes in tree density two years after the initial inventory of the 30 ha plot are also moderate. The present data set is inadequate to strongly address forest dynamics. 'The study site is a protected National Park. Yet, the tribals there depend on forests for fuel wood, edible fruits, and also collection dammar from the mature trees of Vateria indica and Canarium strictum. Dammar collection as well as pegging of wooden foot holds on the lofty trees to climb up for collecting honey, wounds the trees, resulting in pest attack and tree mortality. Small-scale disturbances are made to tree seedlings and understory plants while harvesting leafy branches of Artocarpus heterophyllus, A. hirsutus, Flacourtia montana and Ficus spp. to feed the tame elephants. Growing some fast-growing, multi-purpose, native trees in the vicinity of the tribal settlement, would be helpful for tribals, and would reduce their dependence on forest resources. In the 30 ha large-scale permanent plot with individuals of trees being permanently marked, long-term research on tree growth, survival, recruitment rates, and regeneration requirements, and impact of small-scale forest disturbance on plant communities of this forest by the tribals and the tame elephant population, would form promising directions of future investigation. Such additional data would be usefull for biodiversity conservation and management of this and similar forests.