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Woody plant diversity in relation to environmental factors in a seasonally dry tropical forest landscape

Dattaraja, Handanakere S and Pulla, Sandeep and Suresh, Hebbalalu S and Nagaraja, Mavinakoppa S and Murthy, Chilakunda A Srinivasa and Sukumar, Raman (2018) Woody plant diversity in relation to environmental factors in a seasonally dry tropical forest landscape. In: JOURNAL OF VEGETATION SCIENCE, 29 (4). pp. 704-714.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvs.12652


QuestionsWater availability is known to be a first-order driver of plant diversity; yet water also affects fire regimes and soil fertility, which, in turn, affect plant diversity. We examined how precipitation, fire and soil properties jointly determine woody plant diversity. Specifically, we asked how woody plant diversity varies along a sharp precipitation gradient (about 600-1,800mm mean annual precipitation MAP]within a similar to 45-km distance) exhibiting considerable variation in long-term fire burn frequency and soil fertility, in a southern Indian seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) landscape. LocationMudumalai, Western Ghats, India. MethodsWoody plants 1-cm DBH were enumerated in 19 1-ha permanent plots spanning a range of tropical vegetation types from dry thorn forest, through dry and moist deciduous forest to semi-evergreen forest. Burn frequencies were derived from annual fire maps. Six measures of surface soil properties - total exchangeable bases (Ca+Mg+K), organic carbon (OC), total N, pH, plant available P and micronutrients (Fe+Cu+Zn+Mn) were used in the analyses. Five measures of diversity - species richness, Shannon diversity, the rarefied/extrapolated versions of these two measures, and Fisher's - were modelled as functions of MAP, annual fire burn frequency and the principal components of soil properties. ResultsMost soil nutrients and OC increased with MAP, except in the wettest sites. Woody productivity increased with MAP, while fire frequency was highest at intermediate values of MAP. Woody plant diversity increased with MAP but decreased with increasing fire frequency, resulting in two local diversity maxima along the MAP gradient - in the semi-evergreen and dry thorn forest - separated by a low-diversity central region in dry deciduous forest where fire frequency was highest. Soil variables were, on the whole, less strongly correlated with diversity than MAP. ConclusionsAlthough woody plant diversity in this landscape, representative of regional SDTFs, is primarily limited by water availability, our study emphasizes the role of fire as a potentially important second-order driver that acts to reduce diversity in this landscape.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: WILEY
Additional Information: Copy right for this article belong to WILEY, 111 RIVER ST, HOBOKEN 07030-5774, NJ USA
Keywords: Albrecht's curve; diversity-disturbance relationships; fire; Mudumalai; plant diversity; precipitation; soil; Western Ghats
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Division of Mechanical Sciences > Divecha Centre for Climate Change
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2018 17:31
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2018 17:31
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/60715

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