C. V. Chittibabu
Salim Ali School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry 605 014, INDIA.
Plant diversity is fundamental to total forest biodiversity, especially the trees which provide resources and habitat structure for almost all other forest species. The plant diversity and forest composition strongly correlate with geographical location, soil type and disturbance. As human activities keep escalating with ever-increasing population, ecosystems near human settlements become fragile. Hence documenting plant diversity of disturbed forest sites and thereby emphasizing the need for site conservation arise.
The tropical evergreen forests in the Kolli hills are unique and are found in secluded patches, locally called 'sholas', rather fragmented due to anthropogenic pressure. The greater human impacts are observed in plots KS and MS, resulting in reduction of diversity and density of plants. For instance, reduction of species richness in disturbed plot MS by 52% (26 species as against 54 species of relatively undisturbed PS) and basal area by 56% is notable. Tree density was also reduced to 58% in the disturbed plot KS (266 as against 632 trees of the other undisturbed plot VS). The present study offers a baseline data on total plant diversity (excluding herbaceous epiphytes) and the human impacts on them. The real patterns of forest changes will emerge only after long-term monitoring of permanent sample plots, as opined by Andel (2001).
Future research can be directed towards species biology of dominant species, and reproduction strategies of rare tree species to answer the questions regarding the conservation strategy to be made. The need for conservation arises from the multiple benefits offered by biodiversity. Hence proper and stringent forest conservation measures would rescue species loss in the tropical evergreen forests of the Kolli hills.