Dipterocarp domination: a special issue for Plant Ecology & Diversity

Dr Lindsay Banin, a scientist based at our Edinburgh site, has a particular interest in forest function. Here she talks about her recent experience as a guest editor for a newly published special issue of Plant Ecology & Diversity journal looking at the ecology of the Asian Dipterocarps...

The tropics are known for their vast diversity, harbouring at the very least 40,000 tree species worldwide1, despite constituting only 10% of land cover. Yet, a phenomenon that has long fascinated ecologists is the dominance of the tree family Dipterocarpaceae in Asian tropical forests; trees belonging to this family can make up a major proportion of stems in a forest stand, contributing significantly to the functioning of those forests.

Following a successful thematic session on dipterocarps at the Society for Tropical Biology meeting in Zürich, 2015, I was invited to join Dr Francis Brearley (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Dr Philippe Saner (ETH Zürich) to pull together a special issue on ‘The Ecology of the Asian Dipterocarps’ for the journal Plant Ecology & Diversity. We were keen that the contributions reflected the full geographic range of the family, from the highly seasonal forests of India and Cambodia to the diversity hotspot for the family in the aseasonal forests of Borneo.

Shorea albida canopy of the heath forest at Gunung Mulu and inset showing two-winged tree fruits

The papers also span the full life cycle of these trees and the affiliated ecological processes operating. As part of the project, we collaborated with a graphic artist, Diego Guerra, to capture and communicate the interplay of these life stages and processes. By doing this, we were able to draw out key themes and common threads in our introductory paper. I found this a highly rewarding process because we got a synoptic view of the most recent, emerging science relating to dipterocarps.

These topics span genetics and reproduction, dispersal and predation, leaf and stem traits, mycorrhizas and soil processes, and forest structure and composition so we hope there is something of interest to anyone working on the tropical forests of Asia. We were also able to synthesise key messages about the effects of landscape changes on dipterocarps and lessons relating directly to management and restoration, demonstrating links between fundamental and applied research. This is highly relevant since many of the forests in Asia have been degraded but there is a commitment to protect remaining forests and help reconnect and restore the landscape.

"We were able to synthesise key messages about the effects of landscape changes on dipterocarps and lessons relating directly to management and restoration..." Dr Lindsay Banin, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The full special issue can be found here - we hope you enjoy the contributions as much as we did.

Lindsay Banin

1 Slik et al. 2015,  An estimate of the number of tropical trees species, PNAS, vol. 112 (24): 7472–7477

Additional information

The Ecology of the Asian Dipterocarps special issue of Plant Ecology & Diversity

Staff page of Dr Lindsay Banin, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

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