Wed, 13 Nov 2013, 10.00am @ SR1: Matti Niissalo on “Montane vegetation of Sri Lanka”

matti_in_sinharajaQualifying Examination

Montane vegetation of Sri Lanka: Floristics, threats and conservation potential

Matti A. Niissalo
Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013: 10.00am
@ DBS Seminar Room 1, S2 Level 4
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Webb, Edward Layman

All are welcome

Abstract:

“Sri Lanka’s montane forests present one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems in South Asia, and are an important part of the global biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. Very little is known of the floristic composition of the forests, their threats and conservation potential. Given these gaps in the current knowledge on the forests, the current proposal will pursue the following objectives:

I) Provide a quantitative forest classification and measure the plant diversity of montane forests

II) Assess the conservation value, level of degradation and causes of threats towards montane forest fragments

III) Measure seed rain and seedling emergence to assess conservation potential of abandoned plantations and active timber plantations

I will make the first quantitative classification of Sri Lanka’s remaining continuous primary montane forests. I will test if the tree communities are correlated with physiognomic forest characteristics or total plant diversity. I will create a classification based on dominant tree species. I will test if geographic distance or environmental variables can predict changes in the forest classes. Forest classification will be used to improve distribution modelling of threatened plants in the region and the distribution data acquired is used to test the validity of existing IUCN classification.

Outside the continuous forests, there are isolated fragments of montane forest. Many of them are not legally protected and very little is known about their status or species composition. I will survey the level of disturbance and existing plant diversity of these fragments. The underlying reasons to anthropogenic forest degradation, reported elsewhere, remain a mystery. I will test whether variables of land use and demographics correlate with unsustainable forest use. This will be carried out using structured interviews, population census and land use data.

Large areas of montane forest have been converted to plantations. Active tea, pine and cardamom plantations are known to harbour few vascular plants. The rate of forest recovery of abandoned plantations has only been studied in a single tea plantation. I will measure the diversity present in active timber plantations Central Massif using seedling counts. Knuckles range, protected since 2003, gives a unique opportunity for study of recently abandoned tea and cardamom plantations. Seed catching is done in two habitats in Knuckles to test the diversity and types of species dispersing to these habitats, and seedling counts will test their germination potential.”

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