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Impact of forest fire on insect species diversity: A study in the Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, India



Impact of forest fire on insect species diversity: A study in the Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, India



Entomon 28(2): 105-114



The impact of forest fire on insect species diversity was studied in representative plots in the Silent Valley National Park in the Kerala part of Western Ghats. The plots were laid out in such a way that forest patches representing both disturbed and undisturbed areas were covered. Shannon-Weiner diversity indices for insects and plants were determined separately for disturbed and undisturbed ares. The fire affected areas showed reduction in species diversity both in flora and fauna. The similarity index calculated for the various sites indicated that there was considerable difference between the sites and that each area was specialised with respect to its faunal elements. The undisturbed areas had good representation of primary plant species such as Palaquium ellipticum, Myristica dactyloides and Vateria indica whereas, in the disturbed area, there was a reduction in the number of primary species and invasion by secondary species like Macaranga peltata, Zizyphus rugosa and Celtis sp. and weeds such as Lantana camara, Chromolaena odorata and Clerodendrum viscosum. With regard to insects, the disturbed areas had more of herbaceous feeding forms belonging to the families, Noctuidae, Pyralidae, Chrysomelidae etc. whereas the undisturbed areas were rich in arboreal feeding insects belonging to the families, Cossidae, Geometridae and Satumidae. The impact of disturbance on biodiversity was evident from the diversity values as well as the floral and faunal elements of the disturbed and undisturbed areas. Altogether, 578 species of insects belonging to 13 orders were collected, of which 275 species have been identified. Maximum number of species collected belonged to the Orders Lepidoptera and Coleoptera. The most dominant families were Pyralidae, Noctuidae and Geometridae (Lepidoptera) and Chrysomelidae, Cerambycidae and Tenebrionidae (Coleoptera). Based on the 'collector's curve' and 'distribution model', the study revealed that the area contained more species than could be collected in the present investigation indicating the need for further studies.

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