|Giriraj, A; Murthy, MSR; Beierkuhnlein, C: Evaluating forest fragmentation and its tree-community composition in the tropical rain forest of Southern Western Ghats (India) from 1973 – 2004., Environmental Monitoring & Assessment, 161, 29-44 (2010)|
Abstract A majority of the research on forest fragmentation is primarily focused on animal groups rather than on tree communities because of the complex structural and functional behavior of the latter. In this study, we show that forest fragmentation provokes surprisingly rapid and profound alterations in tropical tree community. We examine forest fragments in the tropical region using high-resolution satellite imagery taken between 1973 and 2004 in the Southern Western Ghats (India) in relation to landscape patterns and phytosociological datasets. We have distinguished fragmentation in six categories—interior, perforated, edge, transitional, patch, and undetermined—around each forested pixel. Furthermore, we have characterized each of the fragment class in the evergreen and semi-evergreen forest in terms of its species composition and richness, its species similarity and abundance, and its regeneration status. Different landscape metrics have been used to infer patterns of land-use changes. Contiguous patches of >1,000 ha covered 90% of evergreen forest in 1973 with less porosity and minimal plantation and anthropogenic pressures; whereas in 2004, the area had 67% forest coverage and a high level of porosity, possibly due to Ochlandra spread and increased plantations which resulted in the loss of such contiguous patches. Results highlight the importance of landscape metrics in monitoring land-cover change over time. Our main conclusion was to develop an approach, which combines information regarding land cover, degree of fragmentation, and phytosociological inputs, to conserve and prioritize tropical ecosystems.