, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 263-275

The distribution of soil macrofauna on the west ridge of Gunung (Mount) Mulu, Sarawak

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Summary

The macrofauna of the soils on the west ridge of Gunung Mulu in 4th Division, Sarawak, were sampled during February and March 1978. The eleven sampling sites ranged from near the base of the mountain at 130 m a.s.1. to the summit at 2.376 m.

Altitudinal changes from lowland rain forest (mixed dipterocarp forest) to lower montane and upper montane rain forests are concomitant with changes in soil from red yellow podzolics and regosols to peaty gley podzolics and organic peats.

The abundance of the total macrofauna declined from 2,579 individuals m-2 at 130 m to 145 m-2 at 2,376 m. Declining population densities of ants and termites correlated significantly with increasing altitude but the effect on other groups was variable. Changes in total biomass were erratic and varied from 4.1–6.2 g m-2 (alc. w.w.) in the dipterocarp forest soils to 5.8 g m-2 in the lower montane, 9.3–20.2 g m-2 in the upper montane (tall facies) and 1.9–9.5 g m-2 in the upper montane (short and summit facies). Only the decline in the biomass of termites and ants correlated significantly with altitude. Other groups remained fairly constant, varied erratically or increased in the middle altitudes.

The dipterocarp forest soil macrofaunal biomass was dominated by termites, beetles and earthworms (Megascolecidae and Moniligastridae), with ants the dominant predators. The lower montane forest was a transitional and ill-defined zone on the mountain and the soil macrofauna was also transitional to some extent. Termite biomass fell substantially and earthworms replaced them as the dominant detritivores, with beetles in a secondary role. Formicidae remained as the major predators. With the inception of peats in the upper montane forest (tall facies), the macrofauna was dominated by Coleoptera with earthworms, Diptera larvae and Blattodea in lesser roles. With increasing exposure in the upper montane forests (short and summit facies), several major groups disappeared altogether. The soils were dominated by Blattodea with Coleoptera and Megascolecidae of lesser importance. Chilopoda and Arachnida replaced Formicidae as the dominant predators.