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Species–habitat associations in a Sri Lankan dipterocarp forest

  • C. V. S. Gunatilleke (a1), I. A. U. N. Gunatilleke (a1), S. Esufali (a1), K. E. Harms (a2), P. M. S. Ashton (a3), D. F. R. P. Burslem (a4) and P. S. Ashton (a5)...


Forest structure and species distribution patterns were examined among eight topographically defined habitats for the 205 species with stems ≥ 1 cm dbh inhabiting a 25-ha plot in the Sinharaja rain forest, Sri Lanka. The habitats were steep spurs, less-steep spurs, steep gullies and less-steep gullies, all at either lower or upper elevations. Mean stem density was significantly greater on the upper spurs than in the lower, less-steep gullies. Stem density was also higher on spurs than in gullies within each elevation category and in each upper-elevation habitat than in its corresponding lower-elevation habitat. Basal area varied less among habitats, but followed similar trends to stem density. Species richness and Fisher's alpha were lower in the upper-elevation habitats than in the lower-elevation habitats. These differences appeared to be related to the abundances of the dominant species. Of the 125 species subjected to torus-translation tests, 99 species (abundant and less abundant and those in different strata) showed at least one positive or negative association to one or more of the habitats. Species associations were relatively more frequent with the lower-elevation gullies. These and the previous findings on seedling ecophysiology, morphology and anatomy of some of the habitat specialists suggest that edaphic and hydrological variation related to topography, accompanied by canopy disturbances of varying intensity, type and extent along the catenal landscape, plays a major role in habitat partitioning in this forest.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author: I. A. U. N. Gunatilleke, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya 20400, Sri Lanka. Email:,



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