|Town/Region||Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve|
|Date||11 Feb 2020|
The tropical moist forests of the southern Western Ghats are incredibly biodiverse, showing very high plant, bird, amphibian and insect species richness (Ganesh et al., 1996; Daniels, 1992; Daniels, 1997, Inskipp et al., 2006; Devy & Davidar, 2003; Mathew & Rahamathulla, 1993). These forests are also one of the two regions of tropical moist forests in India. Despite forest policies (Forest Act, 1927), activities such as conversion of forests to agricultural land, fuelwood collection, coffee and tea plantations, and complete or selective felling continue to degrade these landscapes.
Responses of biodiversity to changes in light regime (duration, intensity (flux) and quality (wavelength/colour)) in tropical forest canopies have received little scientific attention. Since variation in light is considered as one of the most dramatic among plant resources, changes in the light regime can have a significant impact on the growth and success of plants (Greenberg and Simon, 2013) and cause light stress in epiphytes (Adibah & Ainuddin, 2011). Furthermore, variations in the in light regimes are known to influence biodiversity (Thery, 2001), particularly insects (Grossner, 2009).
This project aims at assessing changes in the light regime and its impact on vascular epiphyte and beetle compositions in the canopies of tropical forests in the southern Western Ghats. We will place light-sensing devices in the canopy, and sample vascular epiphyte and beetle (particularly Chrysomelids) species compositions in the vicinity of the sensor. Further, we intend to evaluate the impacts of these disturbances on canopies as a habitat, by analysing the light regimes and species compositions in the disturbed and undisturbed forest.
We hope to train staff from the Tamil Nadu State Forest Department and communicate our methods and findings through regular liaison as well as a workshop. Hence, in addition to the above research objectives, this work aims to promote canopy-focused conservation science, aid in forest management strategies, protect continuous canopy cover and contribute to conservation physiology. Realising the extent of changes in the canopy could provide insights on the complexities of habitat degradation and impacts on biodiversity, and hence, promote conservation of primary tropical forests in India and globally.
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