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Floristic diversity and vegetation structure of the remnant subtropical broad leaved forests from Kabal valley, Swat, Pakistan

Mohammad Ilyas, Rahmat Ullah Qureshi, Naveed Akhtar, Ziaul-Haq and Arshad Mahmood Khan

Under the prevailing anthropogenic and deteriorating environmental conditions, subtropical broad leaved forests in Pakistan are vanishing at a rapid pace. Muslim communities living in rural areas pay great respect and sanctity to the graveyards and avoid interference with the natural vegetation in these sites. The relics of the natural climax plant communities can be seen in the Muslim graveyards of almost every village of Kabal valley, Swat. Little attention has been given to the significance of cultural norms and religious beliefs in conserving phytodiversity. The present endeavor was undertaken to quantify the existing phytodiversity from the studied area during 2010 to 2014. Species and environmental data from 40 relevés measuring 10 x 10 m size laid in different Muslim graveyards was stored in TURBOVEG and exported to JUICE for analysis through Two Way Hierarchical Cluster Analysis and Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA). The vegetation comprised of an association dominated by Olea ferruginea and Celtis eriocarpa with five distinct communities based on floristic components and environmental variables. Soil moisture, pH, phosphorus, organic matter content and altitude were the main determining factors in establishing these plant communities. The vegetation was stratified with the highest tree layer (17.48±2.94m), shrub layer (1.85±0.28m) and herb layer (65.25±17.79cm). The canopy covered the area about 84.38±11.83%, of which tree layer shared 69.25±16.15%, shrub layer 37.63±11.43% and herb layer56.50±11.72%. In all, 229 vascular plant species were recorded from the sampled area. Mean species richness was 28.83±6.69, followed by Shannon index (2.59±0.32), Simpson index (0.85±0.06) and evenness index (0.78±0.07). The significance of indigenous peoples’ beliefs and taboos in biodiversity conservation has been discussed in the paper

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