Data from a hilly forest study site at Batang Ule, Sumatra, are organized into 30 100-m × 10-m subplots lying perpendicular to the line of maximal topographic gradient, from the valley to the plateau/ridge. The following methodological question is addressed: what species diversity measures are best used in order to reveal the ecologically distinct regions in the site. The main tool used to answer this question is the α-diversity curve (Hα). Graphical examination of tree and species densities, and α-diversity curves identifies an anomalous species diversity behaviour of the ‘ridge above the slope’ subplots which may have implications on land-facet class definitions. Factor analysis of the α-diversity curves indicates that the diversity space is two-dimensional: i.e. two diversity measures are sufficient to characterize the site; the species density (H0), and the Berger-Parker index (H∞). In the
two-dimensional diversity-space three distinct species diversity groups are found which relate to the topographic gradient at the Batang Ule site. The results are compared with those for a flat homogeneous site at Pasirmayang, Sumatra. The implications of the results on land-classifications in species-diversity mapping and conservation strategy are discussed.