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Diversity, structure and standing stock of wood in the homegardens of Kerala in peninsular India

Kumar, B.M., George, S.J. and Chinnamani, S. (1994) Diversity, structure and standing stock of wood in the homegardens of Kerala in peninsular India. Agroforestry Systems, 25 (3). pp. 243-262.

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A survey was conducted in 17 selectedthaluks (revenue sub-divisions) of Kerala state to elucidate the floristic structure, composition and the extent of similarities and diversities in the composition of homegardens of Kerala, with particular reference to small (below 0.4 ha), medium (0.5 to 2 ha) and large (>2.0 ha) holding size categories. Besides attempts wer also made to characterize the potential of homegardens to supply commercial timber and fuelwood. Two hundred and fifty two farmers were selected through a stratified random process. In addition to gathering general information on crop and livestock production enterprises, all scattered trees and shrubs (≥15 cm girth at breast height) on the homestead and border trees except palms and rubber were enumerated.

There was tremendous variability both in the number of trees and shrubs present and species diversity of the selected homesteads in different provinces. The small, medium and large sized holdings also exhibited profound variability in the number of woody taxa and individuals present. In total, 127 woody species (Girth at Breast Height (GBH) ≥15 cm) were encountered. The mean number of woody taxa found in the homegardens ranged from 11 for Pathanapuram to 39 in Perinthalmanna. Floristic diversity was higher in the smaller homesteads. It decreased with increasing the size of holdings. Mean Simpson's diversity index for the homesteads ranged from 0.251 (Kochi) to 0.739 (Kottarakkara) suggesting that floristic diversity of homegardens was moderate to low compared to a value over 0.90 for the species-rich evergreen forests of the Western Ghats. The Sorensen's similarity indexes suggested a moderately high degree of similarity for the different tree species encountered in the homesteads of Kerala.

No clear cut planting pattern was discernible in the homegardens of Kerala. The homegarden trees and shrubs were either scattered throughout the homestead or on farm boundaries. Farmers tend to prefer timber trees such as ailanthus (highest frequency) and teak besides fruit trees such as mango, jack, cashew and the like. Major homegarden species were represented in all diameter classes. The diameter structure, however, exhibited a slightly skewed (+) distribution pattern, having the highest frequency in the 20–30 cm classes ensuring adequate regeneration status and in that process making homegardens a sustainable as well as dynamic land use system.

Standing stock of timber and firewood in the homestead of differentthaluks are presented. Average commercial standing stock of homesteads ranged from 6.6 to 50.8 m3 ha−1 and fuel wood volume was of the order of 23 to 86 m3 ha−1. Implicit in the high commercial timber volume and fuel wood volume is that a substantial proportion of the society's wood demands are met from the homesteads. Palms, however, constituted the dominant component of standing commercial timber and fuel wood volumes accounting as much as 63% and 72%, respectively, of the total wood in these categories.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishers
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