Changes in the lowland dipterocarp forest structure and composition are described for a 34-year period between 1947 and 1981 in Sungei Menyala Forest Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia. Although tree density declined by about 10%, basal area changed little, averaging 32.4 m2 ha−1. Size class distributions in 1947 and 1981 were not significantly different. Mortality rates were independent of size class. Mortality exceeded recruitment during the first 16 years to 1963, but was thereafter almost exactly balanced by recruitment. Recruitment rate increased significantly for the latter part of the study.
Mortality was greater than average for understorey species and lower for emergents. Pioneer and late seral species together showed significantly higher mortality rates. Amongst the commoner species, emergent, late-seral and pioneer species showed the highest annual diameter growth rates with species averages over all size classes exceeding 3 mm yr−1; rates for main-canopy species were between 1.5 and 2.5 mm yr−1, and understorey species generally less than 2 mm yr−1.
Species richness was almost identical in 1947 and 1981 (243, 244 species), but a clear decline (to 229 species) between 1953 and 1971 was recovered by 1981. Most species showed little net change in density over the 34-year period, but eight of the 32 commoner species showed significant changes, all unidirectional. These changes in species composition are not negligible, but further analysis is needed to determine if, for example, they are related to disturbance of part of the plot in 1917.