Plant Ecology

, Volume 186, Issue 2, pp 203–216 | Cite as

Liana habitat associations and community structure in a Bornean lowland tropical forest

  • Saara J. DeWalt
  • Kalan Ickes
  • Reuben Nilus
  • Kyle E. Harms
  • David F. R. P. Burslem


Lianas (woody vines) contribute substantially to the diversity and structure of most tropical forests, yet little is known about the importance of habitat specialization in maintaining tropical liana diversity and the causes of variation among forests in liana abundance and species composition. We examined habitat associations, species diversity, species composition, and community structure of lianas at Sepilok Forest Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia in northeastern Borneo among three soil types that give rise to three distinct forest types of lowland tropical rain forest: alluvial, sandstone hill, and kerangas (heath) forest. Alluvial soils are more nutrient rich and have higher soil moisture than sandstone soils, whereas kerangas soils are the most nutrient poor and drought prone. Lianas ≥0.5-cm in diameter were measured, tagged, and identified to species in three square 0.25-ha plots in each forest type. The number of lianas ≥0.5 cm did not differ significantly among forest types and averaged 1348 lianas ha−1, but mean liana stem diameter, basal area, estimated biomass, species richness, and Fisher’s \(\upalpha\) diversity index were all greater for plots in alluvial than sandstone or kerangas forests. Liana species composition also differed greatly among the three habitats, with 71% of species showing significant positive or negative habitat associations. Sandstone forests were intermediate to alluvial and kerangas forests in most aspects of liana community structure and composition, and fewer species showed significant habitat associations with this forest type. Ranking of forest types with respect to liana density, biomass, and diversity matches the ranking in soil fertility and water availability (alluvial > sandstone hill > kerangas). These results suggest that edaphic factors play an important role in maintaining liana species diversity and structuring liana communities.


Dipterocarp forest Diversity Habitat specialization Randomization tests Sabah Vines 


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We appreciate the field help of B. Kurzel and numerous field hands employed by the Forest Research Centre at Sepilok. Sally Brock helped create the map of study sites. Comments by S.␣Schnitzer, P. Fine, C. Cannon, and three anonymous reviewers as well as discussions with C. Webb improved this manuscript. This work was supported by a BES grant to D.F.R.P. Burslem and other members of the Biotic Interactions in Tropical Rain Forests project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saara J. DeWalt
    • 1
  • Kalan Ickes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Reuben Nilus
    • 3
  • Kyle E. Harms
    • 4
    • 5
  • David F. R. P. Burslem
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesClemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Plant and Soil Science, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  3. 3.Forest Research CentreSabahMalaysia
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  5. 5.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panama

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