An analysis of altitudinal behavior of tree species in Subansiri district, Eastern Himalaya
Plant species diversity and endemism demonstrate a definite trend along altitude. We analyzed the (i) pattern of tree diversity and its endemic subset (ii) frequency distribution of altitudinal range and (iii) upper & lower distributional limits of each tree species along altitudinal gradients in eastern Himalaya. The study was conducted in Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. Data on the tree species (cbh ≥ 15 cm) were gathered every 200 m steps between 200 m and 2200 m gradients. Tree diversity demonstrated a greater variation along the gradients. A total of 336 species (of which 26 are endemic) were recorded belonging to 185 genera and 78 families. The alpha diversity demonstrated a decreasing pattern with two maxima (i.e., elevational peaks) along the gradients; one in 601–1000 m and the other in 1601–1800 m, corresponding to transition zones between tropical-subtropical and subtropical-temperate forests. Pattern diversity revealed a narrow range along the gradients. Frequency of altitudinal range was distributed between 1 and 41. Only one species (Altingia excelsa) showed widest amplitude, occurring over the entire range. Highest level of species turnover was found in 400–600 m step at lower elevational limit whereas for upper elevational limit, the highest turn over was recorded between 800 and 1000 m. Tree diversity decreased and its endemic subset increased along the gradients. Two maximas in tree diversity pattern correspond to forest transition zones with subtropical-temperate transition is narrower than tropical-subtropical. The pattern observed here could be attributed to varied microclimates or environmental heterogeneity. If altitudinal amplitude of a species is considered as an aspect of its niche breadth, it is clear from these results that niche breadth in these organisms is in fact independent of the diversity of the assemblage in which they occur. This analysis calls for detailed floristic studies to determine the breadth of changes between adjacent forest types and details of local species richness in high diversity areas.
KeywordsDiversity Altitudinal gradient Range Endemism Eastern Himalaya Subansiri
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Authors are grateful to Dr PS Roy, Deputy Director, NRSA & Project Director Biodiversity Characterization at Landscape Level for his constant support and guidance. We thank Dr A Jeyaram, Head, RRSSC, Kharagpur and Dr VK Dadhwal, Dean, IIRS for their encouragements and Dr PK Hajra, Dr K Haridasan, Dr GD Pal, Mr S Das, Ms S Srivastava, Mr TP Singh and Mr Ashish Kumar for helping with species identification and analysis. We sincerely thank the Reviewer for his critical comments to the earlier versions of this manuscript. This study was undertaken with the financial assistance from Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Space, Government of India in form of a research project on Biodiversity Characterization at Landscape level using remote sensing and GIS techniques. The senior author acknowledges Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi for award of senior research fellowship (No. −9/735/UC/99-EMR-I) to him.
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