Changes in the dry tropical forests in Central India with human use

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Understanding changes in forest composition and structure is important to help formulate effective policies that promote future ability of forests to provide local livelihood needs, habitat and ecosystem services. This is particularly important in dry tropical forests that are ecologically different from other forests and are heavily used by local, forest-dependent residents. In this study, we identify biophysical, demographic and use factors associated with differences in species diversity, vegetation structure (abundance at different size classes), biomass and relative abundance of species across the Kanha-Pench landscape in Central India. We sampled vegetation in twenty transects across different human and livestock population densities and frequencies of use. We found that biomass, species diversity and vegetation (abundance at different size classes) are negatively associated with increasing population density, and species composition at different size classes is significantly different at higher frequencies of use at low population densities. Lack of difference in species composition at high population densities may be due to colonization and growth of individuals at some of these sites due to creation of new ecological niches and gaps at high human use. Relative abundance of species at different size classes also varies with frequency of use and population density. Results suggest that human use is altering relative abundance of species, which may change long-term forest composition and thus alter biomass and vegetation structure of the forest. We conclude that human use is an agent in altering long-term composition that can alter availability of tree species for local use and other ecosystem services.

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