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Structure, diversity and utilization of plant species in tribal homegardens of Kerala, India

George, M. Veena, Christopher, G.
Agroforestry systems 2020 v.94 no.1 pp. 297-307
agroforestry, biodiversity conservation, canopy, economic plants, food security, home gardens, indigenous knowledge, livelihood, rain, India
Homegardens in traditional agroforestry systems are considered as sustainable production system with multiple functions. Indigenous knowledge of tribal communities associated with their homegardens always contributes in food security and biodiversity conservation. The present study aims at understanding the structural and floristic diversity of the homegardens, and utilization of plant species by the tribal communities in the Attappady valley of Kerala, India. Overall 104 homegardens were sampled randomly for assessing the diversity and the usage of various plant species. Data on indigenous knowledge was collected from tribal owners. Structurally, two types of homegardens were identified from the study area, which characterized by two and four layered vertical canopy strata. A total of 182 plant species belonging to 160 genera and 67 families were recorded from the sample homegardens. Comparing the diversity and distribution of plant species among the three communities, highest was found in the homegardens of Mudugas who are inhabiting the high and medium rainfall zones (Shannon diversity index 2.18) and observed its lowest value in the low rainfall zone where Irula communities live (Shannon diversity index 1.45). The homegardens of the study area has rich diversity and home for many useful plants. Considering the usage, 39% were edible, 24% were ornamental and 25% were medicinal. Hence the study indicates that the tribal homegardens are contributing considerably to food security and livelihoods of tribal communities in the Attappady valley.