MICROLEVEL STRATIFICATION OF FOREST TYPES OF HIGHLY HETEROGENEOUS FORESTS OF SOUTHERN WESTERN GHATS USING AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHSA.O. Varghese and A.R.R. Menon Kerala Forest
Forest type of any given area is a manifestation of total ecological set up of that area. For preparing a blueprint for conservation of biota, one of the essential steps is cataloguing all identifiable ecosystems occurring within the region. Since the plant communities being primary producers reflect the basic characteristics of the physical environment and also in turn decide the identity of the consumers viz, the animals. The forest types of Kerala show highly heterogeneous nature and it is very difficult to stratify them at microlevel. The pictorial elements show overlapping pattern. In all the earlier studies in this area a broad categorisation of forest types like, evergreen, moist deciduous etc. alone have been done (Suraj et al., 1997 and Menon, 1993). In the present study the forest type classification of Peppara.Wildlife Sanctuary was done using 1: 15,000 black and white aerial photographs by Visual interpretation techniques. Microlevel stratification of forest types were achieved. West coast tropical evergreen forest and Hilltop evergreen forest were separately delineated in the wet evergreen forest. The phenological stages of forest were taken into account for achieving vegetation type classification. Systematic sample points were checked on the ground to evaluate the classification accuracy and it was found to be 95% accurate.
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