Vegetation Dynamics across Landscapes in Kodagu region of Western Ghats South India
Dr. B.C. Nagaraja
Altitude Carbon stock Endemism Vegetation Western Ghats
Bangalore University, Karnataka
Mountain ecosystems are important biological diversity centres with half of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Thus, species richness study in altitudinal gradients has become increasingly popular in recent years. Understanding the structure, composition and diversity of forest is an essential feature in assessing the sustainability, ecological importance and its implication for conservation and management. Studies on regeneration are a useful tool in understanding the present vegetation and also give an insight into the future vegetation composition. Forests also play an important role in the mitigation of climate change by sequestering carbon in biomass and soil. India's recognition as one of the four mega- diversity countries of Asia is derived largely from two of its most important biodiversity hot- spots the Himalaya including the north-eastern hills along the northern border, and the Western Ghats in peninsular India. The Western Ghats is one of the main mountain ranges in India and is a region of immense global importance for the conservation of biological diversity. Kodagu district which lies in the central part of the Western Ghats has witnessed a rapid expansion of plantation crops. The indiscriminate development, expansion of coffee plantations and commercialization of property to homestays and resorts has led to a decrease in tree cover over the years. The original native trees have been removed to grow fast-growing commercial trees for timber and shade purposes in coffee plantations, which have also led to a decrease in the avian diversity and bee colonies in the region. Land use and land cover for two decadal changes were carried out for three protected areas along with the adjoining reserve forests. The study revealed that areas having habitat with vegetation and agricultural plantations increased and the tree groves decreased. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index showed that there has been a decrease in the forest cover in the past two decades. Although the change in the land cover in these areas is minimal in the past two decades, coffee expansion to higher elevations on fringes of protected areas should be restricted.