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Update:September 28, 2018

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A resource-saving living mode by the trees of Dipterocarpaceae species that grow to over 50 m high in nutritionally-poor land


Article title

Association of growth and hollow stem development in Shorea albida trees in a tropical peat swamp forest in Sarawak, Malaysia

Author (affiliation)

Yukako Monda (a), Yoshiyuki Kiyono (b), Auldry Chaddy (c), Christopher Damian (c), Lulie Melling (c)

(a) Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
(b) Department of Plant Ecology, FFPRI, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

(c) Sarawak Tropical Peat Research Institute, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia

Publication Journal

Trees, June 2018, DOI:10.1007/s00468-018-1717-9( External link )

Content introduction

Forests of big trees of Shorea albida, a member of Dipterocarpaceae family, are found in a peat swamp (nutritionally-poor peat sediment) in the western region of Borneo. It remains unknown how S. albida trees grow big in a nutritionally-poor land. This species is known for its characteristic appearance; many trees of this species have hollow trunks. From an ecological viewpoint, we studied processes of growth and hollow development in S. albida.

From specific gravity examinations of trunk materials, young trees were found to produce a relatively lightweight wood (wood density: 0.35–0.58 Mg/m3), whereas trees that have reached the canopy height produce heavy, strong wood in the outer trunk (wood density: 0.56–0.64 Mg/m3). Lightweight wood is less robust, but can be produced with fewer resources. In addition, the thickening growth of the trunk was slightly faster than the radial expansion of the hollow. This result suggests that in S. albida trees, trunk thickening takes precedence over suppression of the trunk decay in resource allocation. This allows the growing trees to maintain their trunks in a cylindrical shape with an internal hole. Moreover, even when the trunk is broken by, for example, strong wind, the tree is capable of maintaining its height with a new stem that grows epicormically from the broken site, Note) thereby growing into a big tree with height exceeding 50 m.

A large tree with a hollow inside the trunk is common even among other tree species, and these trees may also adopt a similar resource-saving mode of living. Findings of the analysis of hollow from an ecological viewpoint can be useful when it comes to risk assessment of a tree falling as well as evaluation of living environment for tree-hollow-inhabiting organisms and the carbon storage capacity of trees.

Note) Epicormic growth: New sprouts emerging in the middle of the trunk or branch.


Photograph: A cross-cut Shorea albida tree
Photograph: A cross-cut Shorea albida tree. A hollow is formed throughout the trunk.