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Sunday, April 8

Fig trees triggers forest regeneration effectively, reveals new research study

Ever thought of why we have a lot of fig trees around in Asian sacred grooves? A recent research finding says that it may be due to the tree’s exceptional ecological power to help regenerate forest around it.

Ficus benghalensis, fig tree, Indian sacred grooves,religious ecology
Ficus benghalensis [photo courtsey:romana klee]
A research study carried out in populated areas in Tirunelveli district of Indian state of TamilNadu has revealed that they can help forest regeneration even near highly human populated areas.

The credit of the forest regeneration capacity of fig trees goes to their thick canopy and small fruits during their fruiting period. The researchers found that both these factors attract major frugivorous species. The frequent visit of frugivores enhances deposition of seeds of other tree species under fig canopies, triggering forest regeneration.

The researchers were able to record at least nine birds species including house crow (Corvus splendens), Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotuscafer), and common mynah (Acridotheres tristis) and one bat species Pteropus giganteus, the Indian flying fox,  visiting the Ficus benghalensis trees in the area under study. All these are known primary dispersal agents for south Asian ecological systems.

The phenomenon points to the ecological benefits of fig trees, especially in connection with the survival of sacred grooves near human populated areas. Since the figs have small fruits, it helps them to attract more frugivores species, while other fruiting tress found in sacred grooves usually have bigger seeds.

The study examined if the frugivores visit to Ficus trees is not affected by human disturbance. It also found that the seedling density is higher under the fig canopy than open areas near human populated areas.

Earlier studies have shown that sacred grooves often show higher plant biodiversity than usual wildlife reserves. The present study shows that Ficus trees in sacred grooves have a big influence on this high plant biodiversity. 

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