Plurality of tree species responses to drought perturbation in Bornean tropical rain forest

Newbery, David McClintock; Lingenfelder, Marcus (2009). Plurality of tree species responses to drought perturbation in Bornean tropical rain forest. Plant Ecology, 201(1), pp. 147-167. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands 10.1007/s11258-008-9533-8

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Drought perturbation driven by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a principal stochastic variable determining the dynamics of lowland rain forest in S.E. Asia. Mortality, recruitment and stem growth rates at Danum in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) were recorded in two 4-ha plots (trees ≥ 10 cm gbh) for two periods, 1986–1996 and 1996–2001. Mortality and growth were also recorded in a sample of subplots for small trees (10 to <50 cm gbh) in two sub-periods, 1996–1999 and 1999–2001. Dynamics variables were employed to build indices of drought response for each of the 34 most abundant plot-level species (22 at the subplot level), these being interval-weighted percentage changes between periods and sub-periods. A significant yet complex effect of the strong 1997/1998 drought at the forest community level was shown by randomization procedures followed by multiple hypothesis testing. Despite a general resistance of the forest to drought, large and significant differences in short-term responses were apparent for several species. Using a diagrammatic form of stability analysis, different species showed immediate or lagged effects, high or low degrees of resilience or even oscillatory dynamics. In the context of the local topographic gradient, species’ responses define the newly termed perturbation response niche. The largest responses, particularly for recruitment and growth, were among the small trees, many of which are members of understorey taxa. The results bring with them a novel approach to understanding community dynamics: the kaleidoscopic complexity of idiosyncratic responses to stochastic perturbations suggests that plurality, rather than neutrality, of responses may be essential to understanding these tropical forests. The basis to the various responses lies with the mechanisms of tree-soil water relations which are physiologically predictable: the timing and intensity of the next drought, however, is not. To date, environmental stochasticity has been insufficiently incorporated into models of tropical forest dynamics, a step that might considerably improve the reality of theories about these globally important ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Vegetation Ecology [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Newbery, David McClintock and Lingenfelder, Marcus


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)




Springer Netherlands




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 15:21

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 07:07

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Dynamics; Ecosystem; El Niño; Resilience; Stem growth; Tree mortality



URI: (FactScience: 204321)

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