Forests

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Raman Sukumar (Centre for Ecological Sciences)
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Advait Edgaonkar (Indian Institute of Forest Management)
Dr. Amit Kumar (Central University)
Dr. Ashalata Devi (Tezpur University)
Dr. Ashwani Kumar (Dr. Harisingh Gour University)
Dr. B.S.Adhikari (Wildlife Institute of India)
Dr. G.S.Rawat (Wildlife Institute of India)
Dr. Jayashree Ratnam (National Centre for Biological Sciences)
Prof. Md Latif Khan (Dr. Harisingh Gour University)
Prof. P K Khare (Dr. Harisingh Gour University)
Dr. Purabi Saikia (Central University)
Dr. Rajkumar S. Yadav (Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation)
Dr. Sreejith Kalpuzha (Kerala Forest Research Institute)

Long-term (>30 years) vegetation monitoring plots around the world continue to reveal the subtle ways in which forests are changing over time in response to changing environmental drivers. For example, in some forests in the world, long-term monitoring has shown a consistent trend towards drought-tolerant species and greater representation of tree species with increased average wood density. These changes are reflections of altered ecosystem functioning and services. The need for an extensive network of long-term vegetation plots is particularly high in a country like India, which has a great variety of climates, soils and forest types. The importance of such plots is best highlighted by the 50 ha Mudumalai Forest Dynamics Plot, which over twenty-seven years of monitoring by Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, has yielded key insights into the factors regulating tree mortality and recruitment, and the role of fire, drought, and elephants in regulating the dynamics of dry-deciduous forests. But in the absence of similar efforts in other habitat types, it remains unclear whether the patterns observed in Mudumalai necessarily hold true for other forest types or even other deciduous forests in the country.    

Vegetation plots that are part of the LTEO network would include the potential objectives: (a) to characterize how forest structure, species diversity, and biomass changes across broad environmental gradients, (b) to determine how forest stand structure and dynamics relate to local climate and soil characteristics, (c) to quantify long-term changes in species populations, community composition and forest biomass, (d) to quantify patterns of above-ground and below-ground carbon and nutrient cycling in plots, and (e) to document phenological patterns and quantify long-term changes in phenology. In addition, physical factors such as geomorphology, tidal patterns, and rates of freshwater inflow will be important parameters in monitoring of mangrove forests. 

Permanent long-term monitoring plots of 1-3 hectares each in different forest types will be set up. Plots will be identified and marked following standard protocols (e.g., the Centre for Tropical Forest Science‚Äôs protocols being followed at Mudumalai are now recognized as an international standard for such work). Plots will be placed in relatively undisturbed stands that are homogeneous and well-represent the native habitat. Within the plot, all plant stems that are >1cm diameter at breast height (dbh) will be tagged, identified, measured and plotted onto a map. Demographic changes in these plants will be monitored, and changes evaluated against site-specific differences, and regional climate trends.  Dendro-chronobands will also be installed on a subset of trees of different species to monitor growth patterns of trees in the sites. Plots will be re-sampled periodically and the data analyzed to quantify how plant demography (recruitment/regeneration, stem growth and mortality) changes across species, and across time as a function of changing climatic drivers (rainfall, temperature, fire etc), and how these in turn scale-up to determine patterns of biomass accumulation in sites.