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The diversity of life-form type, habitat preference and phenology of the endemics in the Goa region of the Western Ghats, India


*Dr Vaishali C. Joshi, PO Box 4142, National Center for Natural Products Research, The University of Mississippi, Mississippi 38677, USA.


Aim  To carry out (1) a floristic survey of endemic flowering plants of the Western Ghats occurring in Goa, (2) identify their habitat preference and diversity of life-form type, (3) observe flowering phenology of the endemics and (4) to correlate factors that affect their phenological pattern.

Location  Goa state is located between 15°48′ N and 14°53′54′′ N and 74°20′13′′ E and 73°40′33′′ E, in the northern part of the Western Ghats, India.

Method  A list of endemic plants from the study area was prepared using available floristic works and checklists of endemic plants of India. Based on preliminary field observations carried out in the study area, major habitats such as plateaus, moist deciduous forests, semi-evergreen forests, evergreen forests and mangroves were identified for the subsequent intensive survey of endemics. Voucher specimens for all the endemic species were collected, processed using conventional herbarium techniques and deposited in the Herbarium, Department of Botany, Goa University. Species were identified using local and regional floras and their identity was confirmed at various herbaria along the Western Ghats. Data on their life-form types, habitat and phenology was recorded in the field. Phenological observations were made every fortnight. A computerized data base was generated incorporating details on their life-form type, phenology and habitat.

Results  A floristic survey of endemic plants of the Western Ghats in Goa resulted in the collection of 113 endemic species. Life-form analysis reveals that herbaceous endemics are the most dominant followed by trees, shrubs and climbers. Plateaus in the study area harbour the largest number of endemic species, especially herbs. Endemic trees are distributed in the semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. Endemic species in the study area show different peak and lean seasons of flowering depending on their life-form type, habitat and ecological factors like temperature and rainfall/moisture content in the soil.

Main conclusions  The plateaus in the northern part of the Western Ghats are unique, being species rich with herbaceous endemics. These ephemerals are closely associated with the rainfall patterns thus; any change of moisture regime over the long-term will have an impact on the distribution of these endemics.