A permanent plot of 28 ha was established in a dense wet evergreen forest in the Western Ghats of India to study the functioning of the ecosystem. Since April 1990, 1981 trees of ≥30 cm gbh have been enumerated in a systematic sampling of five strips totalling 3.12 ha. This paper describes the main structural and floristic characteristics of the plot.
The density (635 trees ≥30 cm gbh per hectare) and basal area (39.7 m2 ha−1) are high. Despite the high diversity (Simpson's D = 0.92 and Shannon's H' = 4.56), four species are distinctly, dominant in terms of an importance value index (relative density + relative basal area). Each of these four species occupies a different layer in the ecosystem: Humboldtia brunonis Wall. (Fabaceae) dominates the undergrowth, Myristica dactyloïdes Gaertn. (Myristicaceae) the intermediate strata, Valeria indica L. (Dipterocarpaceae) the higher canopy level and Dipterocarpus indicus Bedd. (Dipterocarpaceae) the emergents. This pronounced species hierarchy is one of the most important characteristics of the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats. The two dipterocarps account for 20.1% of the total number of trees and contribute 40.9% to the total basal area. This formation can, therefore, be considered as the westernmost lowland dipterocarp forest of Asia.
Analysis of the spatial variations in the floristic composition and in the structure of the main species populations shows that two kinds of mature phases can be identified: where the topography is raised and gently sloping, the vertical structure of the stand is discontinuous, with Dipterocarpus indicus and Vateria indica forming an emergent layer above a dense undergrowth; on slopes, the stand is lower, vertically continuous and saturated with Valeria indica and Myristica dactyloïdes. The link between the structure of the stand and dynamic processes is discussed.