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Size structure, growth and regeneration of tropical conifers along a soil gradient related to altitude and geological substrates on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

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Abstract

Background and Aim

Conifers often co-occur with angiosperm trees at high altitudes and on infertile soils in tropical rainforests. To explore the mechanism of conifer–angiosperm coexistence, we investigated size structure, growth rate and regeneration of conifers along soil gradient across altitudes and geological substrates.

Methods

Tree measurements were conducted in ten plots (0.06–1 ha) with varied geology at four altitudes (700, 1700, 2700 and 3100 m) on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. Conifer juveniles were counted and understory light conditions were analyzed with hemispherical photographs.

Results

Size structure of conifers showed inverse-J shape distributions on ultrabasic rocks at ≥1700 m but unimodal or sporadic distributions in other plots. Densities of conifer seedlings and saplings were generally greater on ultrabasic rocks than on non-ultrabasic substrates at comparable altitudes, which concurred with the pattern in understory light conditions. Growth rates over 4 (or 5) years of conifers at 4.8–25 cm diameter were higher than angiosperm trees only under well-lit conditions on non-ultrabasic substrates, but were always similar or higher on ultrabasic rocks even in shaded conditions.

Conclusions

Conifers showed continuous regeneration on ultrabasic rocks at ≥1700 m. This suggested that, on infertile soils, competition with angiosperm trees was relaxed and well-lit understory facilitated recruitment of conifers.

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Acknowledgments

We thank staff members of the Sabah Parks for their continuous supports during the fieldwork throughout the study. We also thank Dr. Kazuki Miyamoto for valuable comments on the manuscript. This study was supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science KAKENHI grant numbers 18255003, 22255002 and 23255003.

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Correspondence to Yoshimi Sawada.

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Responsible Editor: Antony Van der Ent.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 5.

Table 5 Densities of seedlings, saplings, small and large trees and basal area (BA) for individual conifer species in ten plots on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. See Table 1 for plot abbreviations. Small and large tree are defined as individuals 4.8–10 and ≥10 cm DBH, respectively. BA was for stems ≥10 cm DBH

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Sawada, Y., Aiba, Si., Seino, T. et al. Size structure, growth and regeneration of tropical conifers along a soil gradient related to altitude and geological substrates on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. Plant Soil 403, 103–114 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-015-2722-z

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