Article Title

Soil-Related Habitat Specialization in Dipterocarp Rain Forest Tree Species in Borneo


  1. We conducted a field experiment to test whether aggregated spatial distributions were related to soil variation in locally sympatric tree species in the rain forests of Sarawak, Malaysia. Dryobalanops aromatica, Shorea laxa, and Swintonia schwenkii are naturally aggregated on low-fertility humult ultisols, Dryobalanops lanceolata and Hopea dryobalanoides on moderate-fertility udult ultisols and Shorea balanocarpoides is found on both soil types.
  2. Seedlings of all six species were grown in a nested-factorial experiment for 20 months in humult and udult soils in gaps and in the understorey to test for soil-specific differences in performance. Phosphorus addition was used to test for effects due to P-limitation.
  3. Four species showed significantly higher growth on their natural soils, but one humult-soil species (D. aromatica) and the broadly distributed species were not significantly affected by soil type.
  4. One udult-soil species, D. lanceolata, had both lower relative growth rate and lower mycorrhizal colonization on humult soil. However, humult soils also had lower levels of Ca, Mg, K, N and probably water availability.
  5. The overall ranking of growth rates among species was similar on the two soils. Growth rates were strongly positively correlated with leaf area ratio and specific leaf area among species in both soils. With the exception of D. aromatica, species of the higher-nutrient soils had higher growth rates on both soils.
  6. Although P addition led to elevated soil-P concentrations, elevated root- and leaf-tissue P concentrations on both soils, there was no significant growth enhancement and therefore no evidence that P availability limits the growth or constrains the distribution of any of the six species in the field. Differences in soil water availability between soils may be more important.
  7. Our results suggest that habitat-mediated differences in seedling performance strongly influence the spatial distributions of tropical trees and are therefore likely to play a key role in structuring tropical rain forest communities.


Environmental Studies & Sustainability


Journal of Ecology





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