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Evaluating the current ecological status and proposing rehabilitation interventions for the low flooded riparian reserve forest in Punjab Pakistan.

Abstract

Aim of Study: The complex community of riparian reserve forest has become of great concern for researchers to develop more viable management strategies. The paper aimed to evaluate the current structural diversity of vegetation and its association with the physical environment of low-lying forest for proposing the rehabilitation interventions. Area of Study: We studied two forests, Chung-Mohlanwal and Dhana-Bheni on both riverbanks along river Ravi in the Jhok riparian reserve forest situated in the southwest of Lahore, Pakistan. Material and Methods: A methodological framework was developed based firstly, on direct comparison of diversity (measured by Hill numbers) and structure of existed vegetation layers (trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses) and environmental factors (canopy structure, anthropogenic activities, microclimate, and soil characteristics) between the two forests and secondly, on environment-vegetation association using Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) ordination method. Results: Dhana forest was more diverse vegetation layers (Shannon Diversity index 1D < 11) and intact due to plantation of uneven-aged tree stands of varied stand basal area and stem density. Microclimate under this forest could not support the dominant understory positively unlike the monoculture forest. On the contrary, Chung-Mohlanwal forest was under the influence of uncontrolled grazing activities, fuelwood extraction, and invasive species. Multivariate analysis CCA elucidated that most variance was shown by soil characteristics (38.5%) for understory vegetation in both forests. Research Highlights: Overstory stand structure, species composition, distance to nearby communities, and soil characteristics should be considered for developing forest planting and management strategies.