, Volume 140, Issue 2, pp 139-157

Structure, composition and species diversity in an altitude-substrate matrix of rain forest tree communities on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

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We studied forest structure, composition and tree species diversity of eight plots in an environmental matrix of four altitudes (700, 1700, 2700 and 3100 m) and two types of geological substrates (ultrabasic and non-ultrabasic rocks) on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. On both substrate series, forest stature, mean leaf area and tree species diversity (both ≥ 4.8 cm and ≥ 10 cm diameter at breast height [dbh]) decreased with altitude. The two forests on the different substrate series were similar at 700 m in structure, generic and familial composition and tree species diversity, but became dissimilar with increasing altitude. The decline in stature with altitude was steeper on the ultrabasic substrates than on the non-ultrabasic substrates, and tree species diversity was generally lower on ultrabasic substrates than on non-ultrabasic substrates at ≥ 1700 m. The forests on non-ultrabasic substrates at higher altitudes and those on ultrabasic substrates at the lower altitudes were similar in dbh versus tree height allometry, mean leaf area, and generic and familial composition at ≥ 1700 m. These contrasting patterns in forest structure and composition between the two substrate series suggested that altitudinal change was compressed on the ultrabasic substrates compared to the non-ultrabasic substrates. Tree species diversity was correlated with maximum tree height and estimated aboveground biomass, but was not with basal area, among the eight study sites. We suggest that forests with higher tree species diversity are characterized by greater biomass allocation to height growth relative to trunk diameter growth under more productive environment than forests with lower tree species diversity.