Changes of land use land cover and floristic composition in sacred forests of West Karbi Anglong district, Assam, India.
Sacred forests help in sustaining the biodiversity of a region. Assam, a state from Northeast India, has sacred forests where studies on the changes of land use land cover and floristic composition are limited. Therefore, our study aimed to analyze the changes caused by land use land cover and assess floristic composition in the Bichikri and Harlong sacred forests of West Karbi Anglong district of Assam. For land use land cover, we studied the decadal change for two periods, the first period (1998 to 2008) and the second period (2008 to 2018). We observed a 43.5% variation of dense forest cover in the first period. However, in the second period, there was an increase of 6.4%. Open forest and fallow land showed an increase of 37.6% and 6.6% in the first period and a decrease of 15.6% and 5% in the second period, respectively. These changes may be because of the increasing production of rubber and broom grass cultivation. The species diversity in the studied sacred forests recorded a total of 116 species (46 trees, 27 shrubs, and 43 herbs) belonging to 84 genera under 44 families. 21% of species are found common in both the sacred forests. As there is no boundary of the sacred forests, there is an exploitation of the plant resources, and the existence of invasive species may have led to low plant diversity. Therefore, in the future, there is a high possibility of extinction of plant species from these sacred forests. So, it is highly recommended to conserve and protect the species of sacred forests with the involvement of community support and policymakers.