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Relationship between annual rainfall and tree mortality in a tropical dry forest: Results of a 19-year study at Mudumalai, southern India

Suresh, HS and Dattaraja, HS and Sukumar, R (2010) Relationship between annual rainfall and tree mortality in a tropical dry forest: Results of a 19-year study at Mudumalai, southern India. In: Conference on Adaptation of Forests and Forest Management to Changing Climate with Emphasis on Forest Health, AUG 25-28, 2008, Umea, Sweden, pp. 762-769.

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Abstract

Variability in rainfall is known to be a major influence on the dynamics of tropical forests, especially rates and patterns of tree mortality. In tropical dry forests a number of contributing factors to tree mortality, including dry season fire and herbivory by large herbivorous mammals, could be related to rainfall patterns, while loss of water potential in trees during the dry season or a wet season drought could also result in enhanced rates of death. While tree mortality as influenced by severe drought has been examined in tropical wet forests there is insufficient understanding of this process in tropical dry forests. We examined these causal factors in relation to inter-annual differences in rainfall in causing tree mortality within a 50-ha Forest Dynamics Plot located in the tropical dry deciduous forests of Mudumalai, southern India, that has been monitored annually since 1988. Over a 19-year period (1988-2007) mean annual mortality rate of all stems >1 cm dbh was 6.9 +/- 4.6% (range = 1.5-17.5%); mortality rates broadly declined from the smaller to the larger size classes with the rates in stems >30 cm dbh being among the lowest recorded in tropical forest globally. Fire was the main agent of mortality in stems 1-5 cm dbh, elephant-herbivory in stems 5-10 cm dbh, and other natural causes in stems > 10 cm dbh. Elephant-related mortality did not show any relationship to rainfall. On the other hand, fire-related mortality was significantly negatively correlated to quantity of rainfall during the preceding year. Mortality due to other causes in the larger stem sizes was significantly negatively correlated to rainfall with a 2-3-year lag, suggesting that water deficit from mild or prolonged drought enhanced the risk of death but only with a time lag that was greater than similar lags in tree mortality observed in other forest types. In this respect, tropical dry forests growing in regions of high rainfall variability may have evolved greater resistance to rainfall deficit as compared to tropical moist or temperate forests but are still vulnerable to drought-related mortality.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Elsevier Science.
Keywords: Forest dynamics; Climate variability; Drought; Tropical dry forest; Western Ghats
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2010 12:13
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 05:57
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/26401

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