Seasonal vegetation shift and wetland dynamics in vulnerable granitic rocky outcrops of Palghat Gap of southern Western Ghats, Kerala, India

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Pathiyil Arabhi
Maya Chandrasekharan Nair


 Low altitude granitic hillock systems prevalent in Palghat (Palakkad) Gap region of southern Western Ghats were analyzed for seasonal dynamics in wetland taxa associated with marshy ephemeral flush vegetation, small ephemeral pools and deep rock pools.  Due to characteristic habitat features, such systems harbor a unique pattern of microhabitats and associated floristic components.  Wet phase in rocky outcrops in the monsoon season establishes a hydro-geomorphic habitat that supports establishment of wetland taxa like Eriocaulon, Drosera, Utricularia, Dopatrium, and Rotala.  Seasonal shift in the floral associations was evident in tune with wetland dynamics.  Wet rocks support ephemeral flush vegetation which display some unique plant associations of species of Eriocaulon, Utricularia, Drosera, Cyanotis, Murdannia, and Lindernia.  Small ephemeral pools displayed taxa like Rotala malampuzhensis R.V. Nair, Dopatrium junceum (Roxb.) Buch.-Ham. ex Benth., D. nudicaule (Willd.) Benth., Monochoria vaginalis (Burm.f.) C. Presl, and Cyperus iria LRocky pools are the habitats of aquatic angiosperms like Nymphaea nouchali Burm. f., Ludwigia adscendens (L.) H. Hara, Utricularia aurea Lour. and Hydrilla verticillata (L.f.) RoyleThe study documented 121 plant taxa from 37 families during a wet phase from rocky outcrops of the study area.  Gradual shift in vegetation is evident as water recedes from granitic hillocks.  During the period from December to March, the rocky pools dry up which results in a shift in the vegetation pattern where Poaceae members form the dominant elements.  As most of the rocky outcrops are exposed to extreme temperature and acute water shortage, the taxa inhabiting such ecosystems tend to evolve much faster than in other habitats.  Moreover, the vicinity of these hillocks in the Palghat Gap region to human settlements, face threats like fire, grazing, quarrying, dumping of wastes etc. which may cause considerable loss to the very sensitive plant communities which are not yet fully documented.


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Arabhi, P. and Nair, M.C. 2019. Seasonal vegetation shift and wetland dynamics in vulnerable granitic rocky outcrops of Palghat Gap of southern Western Ghats, Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa. 11, 12 (Sep. 2019), 14518–14526. DOI:


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