The characteristics, representativeness, function and conservation importance of tropical dry evergreen forest on India’s Coromandel Coast

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Mark Everard


The central area of the Coromandel Coast, southeastern India, has been subject to a very long history of human habitation and land use change, substantially reducing the coverage of native forest.  There are polarised views about definitive characteristics of native tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF), albeit agreement that the habitat type is locally characteristic though now severely reduced, fragmented and degraded.  A literature review was undertaken to determine the evolutionary origins of TDEF as well as its characteristics.  A combination of both natural and human factors gives rise to TDEF, explaining the heterogeneity of existing stands even in close proximity to each other.  Religious shrines are often associated with ‘sacred groves’, which are influential in the survival of stands of TDEF.  These remaining stands are highly fragmented across the wider landscape and subject to species invasions from adjacent habitats as well as increasing human pressures.  On the basis of existing evidence, it is not possible to describe TDEF through a definitive community of tree species, though typical constituent species are listed.  TDEF may therefore be representative of a larger biome, as for example ‘tropical rainforest’, rather than a specific vegetation type.  Nevertheless, there is general consensus about the importance of restoring TDEF, including its many associated plant and animal species, many of which have medicinal, spiritual and other uses and meanings.  Regardless of biological definitions of TDEF, the functions it performs and the diversity of ecosystem services that it provides afford it substantial importance and reinforce the case for its protection and restoration.  Successful local restoration activities highlight the feasibility of regeneration of TDEF, even from severely degraded and eroded land, and the associated regeneration of ecological and socio-economic values.


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Author Biography

Mark Everard, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Coldharbour Ln, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK

Dr Mark Everard’s research interests include ecosystem services, in particular human-ecosystem interdependences underpinning development challenges.  He works extensively in India, with significant experience in other developing world settings including elsewhere in South Asia and both East and South Africa.  Mark is a communicator in scientific and popular media about the multiple values that ecosystems provide for people.


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