Impact of a Paper Mill on Surrounding Epiphytic Lichen Communities | Pollution | Biodiversity

Indian J. Ecol.

(2012) 39(1) : 38-43

Indian Journal of Ecology

Impact of a Paper Mill on Surrounding Epiphytic Lichen Communities Using Multivariate Analysis
Pulak Das*, Santosh Joshi1, Jayashree Rout and D.K. Upreti1
Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar, Assam–788 011, India 1 Lichenology Laboratory, Plant Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Division, CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow (UP)–226 001, India * E-mail:
Abstract: The present study analyses the effect of a paper mill on epiphytic lichen communities in Barak Valley, Assam, India. Lichen thallus size, thallus number and frequency of occurrence, along with diversity of lichens at three levels (species, generic, and family) are considered as variables to see the community composition across the distance from a paper mill. Number of lichen thallus per tree in study area ranged from 3 to 16, while thallus area per tree varied from 20 cm2 to 256.48 cm2. Number of species showed high positive correlation with number of genera, families, thalli and thallus area. Number of thalli showed high positive correlation with area covered, number of thallus, and thallus area per tree. Distance from the paper mill exhibited no significant correlation with either variable. Multivariate analysis showed two major groups and two subgroups of communities. Sites which are more polluted showed a decrease in the community variables. Fifteen out of seventeen sites were most affected ones. Epiphytic lichen community study thus can be used to study levels of pollution impact around a source of pollution. Key Words: Epiphytic lichen community, Paper mill, Pollution, Cluster analysis

Lichens are among the most frequently used indicators of atmospheric pollution in the last couple of decades due to their sensitivity towards atmospheric pollutants in the form of oxides and other hazardous pollutants. Important factors behind the high sensitivity of lichens are the absence of a protective cuticle that lead to the direct exposure of thallus surface to atmosphere and rather unspecific uptake of mineral nutrients from the surrounding environment. Pulp and paper mills are considered as one of most polluted industries in India. SO2 and NOx are two major air pollutants emitted from pulp and paper mills along with some other pollutants. Impacts of the polluted environment upon lichens have been observed from morphological changes to community structure changes (Gries, 1996). It has been observed that air pollution leads to a reduction of thallus size and frequency of lichens, and sometimes even to the complete loss of sensitive species (Zambrano et al., 2000; Brodo, 1966). Ultra structural changes in lichens due to SO2 and NOx consequently develop physiological changes, which may affect the dispersal mechanism through reduction in abundance and species richness (Nash and Gries, 2002), changes in frequency and coverage (LeBlanc et al., 1974), directing the overall lichen community structure. The changes in frequency, coverage, abundance, number of lichen individuals, and richness in terms of species, genera, and family can therefore be considered important parameters to study the impact of pollution on surrounding lichens. In other words, the spatial pattern of lichens in such community can be deciphered by studying these

parameters. Considering these, the present study aims to assess the role of industrial point source pollution in the reformation of epiphytic lichen communities around a paper mill in Barak Valley by studying above mentioned variables and delineating the areas which are most affected.

The study was conducted around Cachar Paper Mill (Fig.1) in Panchgram in Barak Valley of Assam state in north east India, which is a unit of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL). It uses almost 2,00,000 Bone dry metric tons (BDMT) of bamboo annually for the production of 1,00,000 metric tons (MT) of paper. The data on epiphytic lichens were collected at seventeen sites randomly selected from the geographical map of the area (Fig. 1) within 25 km radius around the paper mill covering an area of around 1800 km2 and spanning between the dimensions 92°22 – 92°53 E longitude and 24°42 – 24°59 N latitude. Kalinagar is the nearest site at 2.4 km and Jalalpur is the farthest site at 24 km towards east and north-west of the mill, respectively (Fig. 2). Lichens are collected following Insarov (2010) from the model tree Artocarpus heterophyllus , growing abundantly around the study area. A group of model trees (five trees in the present case) belonging to A. heterophyllus , located close to each other, forms the sampling plot (or site). Seventeen sampling plots (Fig. 2) are randomly selected in the present study. At each sampling plot, trees exposed to more or less similar conditions of light, temperature, and humidity and trees with

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