, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 149–171

An altitudinal transect study of the vegetation on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

  • K. Kitayama

DOI: 10.1007/BF00044731

Cite this article as:
Kitayama, K. Vegetatio (1992) 102: 149. doi:10.1007/BF00044731


A quantitative transect analysis of altitudinal sequences of forest canopy species from 600 to 3400 m asl on Mt. Kinabalu (4101 m), Borneo, resulted in four discrete altitudinal vegetation zones. These were made up of mutually exclusive species groups for lowland (<1200 m asl), lower montane (1200 to 2000–2350 m asl), upper montane (2000–2350 to 2800 m asl), and subalpine (2800 to the forest line, 3400 m asl) zones. Zonal soil types were correlated with the vegetation zones. In upslope sequence, these were: lowland Oxisols, montane Histosol/Spodosol complex, and subalpine Inceptisols. The highest contents of organic carbon, extractable phosphorus, and exchangeable magnesium and potassium were recorded in the lower and upper montane zones. The upper boundaries of the lowland, upper montane and subalpine zones coincided with thermal thresholds of latitudinal bioclimatic zones: 18°C TMIN (Köppen's tropical), WI 85 (Kira's warm temperate), and WI 45 (Kira's cool temperate), respectively. The upper limit of the lower montane zone was correlated with an abrupt increase of water surplus estimated from the annual rainfall minus annual potential evaporation. These climatic characteristics appear to define ecological altitudinal turnover points, so called ‘critical altitudes’, where groups of associated species are displaced by other groups.


Altitudinal gradientBioclimatic zoneControlling factorCritical altitudeEdaphic zoneForest zone


asl =

above sea level


diameter at breast height


Park headquarters


Mean daily maximum air temperature


Mean daily minimum air temperature


Two-way indicator species analysis

WI =

Warmth index

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Kitayama
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluU.S.A.