Termites were surveyed at an altitude of 1000 m in Maliau Basin, Sabah (Borneo), in two primary forest habitats: lower montane forest and stunted facies of upper montane forest. Soil, wood, litter, termite nests, and arboreal microhabitats up to a height of 2 m above ground were sampled using a belt transect protocol. Two transects were run in each forest type. The upper montane forest transects collected 11 and 13 species, compared with 15 and 19 in the lower montane forest transects. With the addition of species records from casual sampling (conducted with roughly equal effort in each forest type), totals of 18 species were found in the upper montane forest, and 34 species in the lower montane forest. Similar species richness and relative abundance of wood-feeding termites were found in both forest types. However, the lower montane forest had greater richness and relative abundance of species that feed on soil and extremely decayed soil-like wood. This difference is attributed mainly to (i) the well developed, organic-rich soils of the lower montane forest being more suitable for soil-dwelling and mound-building termites compared with the upper montane forest which has sandy soils with a thick covering of peat, and (ii) the low-stature and open canopy of the upper montane forest creates microclimatic conditions which are adverse for soil-feeding termites compared with the high, closed canopy in the lower montane forest. As expected, comparisons with similar studies in lowland forests in Southeast Asia confirmed that the upland forests are relatively depauperate.
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