Effects of Fire on Diversity and Aboveground Biomass of Understory communities in Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest in Western Thailand
Fie is a necessary disturbance in tropical deciduous forests, as it helps clear the understory community and allows regeneration of grasses and forbs for local wildlife. Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (HKK) and Huai Thab Salao-Huai Rabum Non-Hunting Area (HTS) are parts of a few places in Southeast Asia with deciduous forests. However, this area was heavily logged up until 1989, followed by a long period of fire suppression. The consequences of these changes on understory communities have not been investigated. Therefore, the current study aimed to examine the understory communities and their aboveground biomass before and after the annual prescribed burns in HKK and HTS. Understory plant composition and biomass were surveyed in November 2018 (before the fire) and May 2019 (three months after the fire) in 128 temporary plots, covering of deciduous dipterocarp forest, mixed deciduous forest, mixed deciduous forest with bamboo, and open area. We identified a total of 480 understory species, including 37 grass species, 214 forb species, 73 shrub species, 153 tree seedling species and three species of bamboo in the study plots. Grasses in the DDF plots were at 72.79 ± 22.41 kg ha
, accounting for only ten percent of the understory plants in the plots. The understory community in the DDF plots was dominated by shrubs and tree seedlings of competing species, especially after the fire. The results suggested that past logging activities and long-term fire suppression had reduced the number of mature key dipterocarp forests and hindered the regeneration of grasses and forbs. Maintaining the structure of dipterocarp forests and sufficient food sources for the local wildlife species will require more active habitat management of the study areas.