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Impact of severe drought associated with the 1997–1998 El Niño in a tropical forest in Sarawak

  • Michiko Nakagawa (a1), Kenta Tanaka (a1), Tohru Nakashizuka (a2), Tatsuhiro Ohkubo (a3), Tsuyoshi Kato (a4), Teizou Maeda (a3), Kaori Sato (a5), Hideo Miguchi (a6), Hidetoshi Nagamasu (a7), Kazuhiko Ogino (a8), Stephen Teo (a9), Abang Abudul Hamid (a10) and Lee Hua Seng (a10)
  • Published online: 16 November 2000

The impact of the unusually severe drought associated with the 1997–1998 El Niño on tropical forest dynamics in Sarawak, Malaysia was examined. Mortality during the non-drought period (1993–1997) in a core plot (1.38 ha) was 0.89 % y−1, while that during the drought period (1997–1998) in the same plot and a peripheral plot was 6.37 and 4.35 % y−1, respectively. The basal area lost in the drought interval was 3.4 times that of the annual incremental basal area in 1993–1997. Drought mortality was higher for the smaller trees, though it was less size dependent than the non-drought mortality. Dipterocarpaceae, which is the dominant family in the study plot, had a mortality 12–30 times higher in the drought than the non-drought period. There were no significant differences in mortality among the topographic types. From the results of a log-linear model (multi-factored contingency table), the death of trees was correlated with size class, indicating a change in the size-class structure of the forest. Thus, both the species composition and structure are totally affected by such an episodic drought even in a per-humid tropical forest.

Corresponding author
Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Kamitanakami-Hirano, Otsu, Shiga 520-2113 Japan. E-mail:
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Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-tropical-ecology
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