Topographic and bioclimatic determinants of the occurrence of forest and grassland in tropical montane forest-grassland mosaics of the Western Ghats, India

Das, Arundhati and Nagendra, Harini and Anand, Madhur and Bunyan, Milind (2015) Topographic and bioclimatic determinants of the occurrence of forest and grassland in tropical montane forest-grassland mosaics of the Western Ghats, India. Plos One. pp. 2-19.

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Abstract

The objective of this analysis was to identify topographic and bioclimatic factors that predict occurrence of forest and grassland patches within tropical montane forest-grassland mosaics. We further investigated whether interactions between topography and bioclimate are important in determining vegetation pattern, and assessed the role of spatial scale in determining the relative importance of specific topographic features. Finally, we assessed the role of elevation in determining the relative importance of diverse explanatory factors. The study area consists of the central and southern regions of the Western Ghats of Southern India, a global biodiversity hotspot. Random forests were used to assess prediction accuracy and predictor importance. Conditional inference classification trees were used to interpret predictor effects and examine potential interactions between predictors. GLMs were used to confirm predictor importance and assess the strength of interaction terms. Overall, topographic and bioclimatic predictors classified vegetation pattern with approximately 70% accuracy. Prediction accuracy was higher for grassland than forest, and for mosaics at higher elevations. Elevation was the most important predictor, with mosaics above 2000m dominated largely by grassland. Relative topographic position measured at a local scale (within a 300m neighbourhood) was another important predictor of vegetation pattern. In high elevation mosaics, northness and concave land surface curvature were important predictors of forest occurrence. Important bioclimatic predictors were: dry quarter precipitation, annual temperature range and the interaction between the two. The results indicate complex interactions between topography and bioclimate and among topographic variables. Elevation and topography have a strong influence on vegetation pattern in these mosaics. There were marked regional differences in the roles of various topographic and bioclimatic predictors across the range of study mosaics, indicating that the same pattern of grass and forest seems to be generated by different sets of mechanisms across the region, depending on spatial scale and elevation.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Topographic and bioclimatic factors, forest-grassland, computation of topographic, Classification trees
Subjects: Natural Sciences > Life sciences; biology > Ecology
Divisions: Azim Premji University > School of Development
Depositing User: Mr. Krishnamoorti Chavan
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2018 09:12
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2019 09:24
Related URLs:
URI: http://publications.azimpremjifoundation.org/id/eprint/292
Publisher URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130566

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