Dematiaceous fungi (black fungi) are a heterogeneous group of fungi present in diverse environments worldwide. Many species in this group are known to cause allergic reactions and potentially fatal diseases in humans and animals, especially in tropical and subtropical climates. This study represents the first survey of dematiaceous fungi in Malaysia and provides observations on their diversity as well as in vitro response to antifungal drugs. Seventy-five strains isolated from various clinical specimens were identified by morphology as well as an internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-based phylogenetic analysis. The combined molecular and conventional approach enabled the identification of three classes of the Ascomycota phylum and 16 genera, the most common being Cladosporium, Cochliobolus and Neoscytalidium. Several of the species identified have not been associated before with human infections. Among 8 antifungal agents tested, the azoles posaconazole (96%), voriconazole (90.7%), ketoconazole (86.7%) and itraconazole (85.3%) showed in vitro activity (MIC ≤ 1 µg/mL) to the largest number of strains, followed by anidulafungin (89.3%), caspofungin (74.7%) and amphotericin B (70.7%). Fluconazole appeared to be the least effective with only 10.7% of isolates showing in vitro susceptibility. Overall, almost half (45.3%) of the isolates showed reduced susceptibility (MIC >1 µg/mL) to at least one antifungal agent, and three strains (one Pyrenochaeta unguis-hominis and two Nigrospora oryzae) showed potential multidrug resistance.
The impacts of global change on tropical forests remain poorly understood. We examined changes in tree growth rates over the past two decades for all species occurring in large (50-ha) forest dynamics plots in Panama and Malaysia. Stem growth rates declined significantly at both forests regardless of initial size or organizational level (species, community or stand). Decreasing growth rates were widespread, occurring in 24-71% of species at Barro Colorado Island, Panama (BCI) and in 58-95% of species at Pasoh, Malaysia (depending on the sizes of stems included). Changes in growth were not consistently associated with initial growth rate, adult stature, or wood density. Changes in growth were significantly associated with regional climate changes: at both sites growth was negatively correlated with annual mean daily minimum temperatures, and at BCI growth was positively correlated with annual precipitation and number of rainfree days (a measure of relative insolation). While the underlying cause(s) of decelerating growth is still unresolved, these patterns strongly contradict the hypothesized pantropical increase in tree growth rates caused by carbon fertilization. Decelerating tree growth will have important economic and environmental implications.
Accurate estimation of tree biomass is necessary to provide realistic values of the carbon stored in the terrestrial biosphere. A recognized source of errors in tree aboveground biomass (AGB) estimation is introduced when individual tree height values (H) are not directly measured but estimated from diameter at breast height (DBH) using allometric equations. In this paper, we evaluate the performance of 12 alternative DBH : H equations and compare their effects on AGB estimation for three tropical forests that occur in contrasting climatic and altitudinal zones. We found that fitting a three-parameter Weibull function using data collected locally generated the lowest errors and bias in H estimation, and that equations fitted to these data were more accurate than equations with parameters derived from the literature. For computing AGB, the introduced error values differed notably among DBH : H allometric equations, and in most cases showed a clear bias that resulted in either over- or under-estimation of AGB. Fitting the three-parameter Weibull function minimized errors in AGB estimates in our study and we recommend its widespread adoption for carbon stock estimation. We conclude that many previous studies are likely to present biased estimates of AGB due to the method of H estimation.
Dynamics of the Pasoh forest in Peninsular Malaysia were assessed by drawing a comparison with a forest in Panama, Central America, whose dynamics have been thoroughly described. Census plots of 50 ha were established at both sites using standard methods. Tree mortality at Pasoh over an eight-year interval was 1.46% yr(-1) for all stems > or = 10 mm diameter at breast height (dbh), and 1.48% yr(-1) for stems > or = 100 mm dbh. Comparable figures at the Barro Colorado Island site in Panama (BCI) were 2.55% and 2.03%. Growth and recruitment rates were likewise considerably higher at BCI than at Pasoh. For example, in all trees 500-700 mm in dbh, mean BCI growth over the period 1985-1995 was 6 mm yr(-1), whereas mean Pasoh growth was about 3.5 mm yr(-1). Examining growth and mortality rates for individual species showed that the difference between the forests can be attributed to a few light-demanding pioneer species at BCI, which have very high growth and mortality; Pasoh is essentially lacking this guild. The bulk of the species in the two forests are shade-tolerant and have very similar mortality, growth and recruitment. The Pasoh forest is more stable than BCI's in another way as well: few of its tree populations changed much over the eight-year census interval. In contrast, at BCI, over 10% of the species had populations increasing or decreasing at a rate of >0.05 yr(-1) compared to just 2% of the species at Pasoh). The faster species turnover at BCI can probably be attributed to severe droughts that have plagued the forest periodically over the past 30 years; Pasoh has not suffered such extreme events recently. The dearth of pioneer species at Pasoh is associated with low-nutrient soil and slow litter breakdown, but the exact mechanisms behind this association remain poorly understood.
While the importance of local-scale habitat niches in shaping tree species turnover along environmental gradients in tropical forests is well appreciated, relatively little is known about the influence of phylogenetic signal in species' habitat niches in shaping local community structure. We used detailed maps of the soil resource and topographic variation within eight 24-50 ha tropical forest plots combined with species phylogenies created from the APG III phylogeny to examine how phylogenetic beta diversity (indicating the degree of phylogenetic similarity of two communities) was related to environmental gradients within tropical tree communities. Using distance-based redundancy analysis we found that phylogenetic beta diversity, expressed as either nearest neighbor distance or mean pairwise distance, was significantly related to both soil and topographic variation in all study sites. In general, more phylogenetic beta diversity within a forest plot was explained by environmental variables this was expressed as nearest neighbor distance versus mean pairwise distance (3.0-10.3 % and 0.4-8.8 % of variation explained among plots, respectively), and more variation was explained by soil resource variables than topographic variables using either phylogenetic beta diversity metric. We also found that patterns of phylogenetic beta diversity expressed as nearest neighbor distance were consistent with previously observed patterns of niche similarity among congeneric species pairs in these plots. These results indicate the importance of phylogenetic signal in local habitat niches in shaping the phylogenetic structure of tropical tree communities, especially at the level of close phylogenetic neighbors, where similarity in habitat niches is most strongly preserved.
Tropical forests are highly diverse systems involving extraordinary numbers of interactions between species, with each species responding in a different way to the abiotic environment. Understanding how these systems function and predicting how they respond to anthropogenic global change is extremely challenging. We argue for the necessity of 'whole-ecosystem' experimental manipulations, in which the entire ecosystem is targeted, either to reveal the functioning of the system in its natural state or to understand responses to anthropogenic impacts. We survey the current range of whole-ecosystem manipulations, which include those targeting weather and climate, nutrients, biotic interactions, human impacts, and habitat restoration. Finally we describe the unique challenges and opportunities presented by such projects and suggest directions for future experiments.
The internationally accepted limit values and the health effects of hand-transmitted vibration exposure have been described extensively in the literature from temperate climate countries but not from a tropical climate environment.
Flies attracted to human remains during death investigations were surveyed in north Peninsular Malaysia. Six families, eight genera, and 16 species were identified from human remains, with the greatest fly diversity occurring on remains recovered indoors. The total relative frequency of species was led by Chrysomya megacephala (Fabricius, 1794) (46%), followed by Chrysomya rufifacies (Macquart, 1842) (22%), Sarcophaga (Liopygia) ruficornis (Fabricius, 1974) (5%), Sarcophaga spp. (4%), Synthesiomyia nudiseta Wulp, 1883 (6%), Megaselia spp. (3%), Megaselia scalaris (Loew, 1866), (2%), Megaselia spiracularis Schmitz, 1938 (2%), and Chrysomya villeneuvi Patton, 1922 (2%). Hemipyrellia tagaliana (Bigot, 1877), Desmometopa sp., Megaselia curtineura (Brues, 1909), Hemipyrellia ligurriens Wiedemann 1830, Ophyra sp., Sarcophaga princeps Wiedemann 1830, Piophila casei (Linnaeus, 1758), and unidentified pupae each represented 1%, respectively.
Tropical rainforests are subject to extensive degradation by commercial selective logging. Despite pervasive changes to forest structure, selectively logged forests represent vital refugia for global biodiversity. The ability of these forests to buffer temperature-sensitive species from climate warming will be an important determinant of their future conservation value, although this topic remains largely unexplored. Thermal buffering potential is broadly determined by: (i) the difference between the "macroclimate" (climate at a local scale, m to ha) and the "microclimate" (climate at a fine-scale, mm to m, that is distinct from the macroclimate); (ii) thermal stability of microclimates (e.g. variation in daily temperatures); and (iii) the availability of microclimates to organisms. We compared these metrics in undisturbed primary forest and intensively logged forest on Borneo, using thermal images to capture cool microclimates on the surface of the forest floor, and information from dataloggers placed inside deadwood, tree holes and leaf litter. Although major differences in forest structure remained 9-12 years after repeated selective logging, we found that logging activity had very little effect on thermal buffering, in terms of macroclimate and microclimate temperatures, and the overall availability of microclimates. For 1°C warming in the macroclimate, temperature inside deadwood, tree holes and leaf litter warmed slightly more in primary forest than in logged forest, but the effect amounted to <0.1°C difference between forest types. We therefore conclude that selectively logged forests are similar to primary forests in their potential for thermal buffering, and subsequent ability to retain temperature-sensitive species under climate change. Selectively logged forests can play a crucial role in the long-term maintenance of global biodiversity.
Inadequate funding from developed countries has hampered international efforts to conserve biodiversity in tropical forests. We present two complementary research approaches that reveal a significant increase in public demand for conservation within tropical developing countries as those countries reach upper-middle-income (UMI) status. We highlight UMI tropical countries because they contain nearly four-fifths of tropical primary forests, which are rich in biodiversity and stored carbon. The first approach is a set of statistical analyses of various cross-country conservation indicators, which suggests that protective government policies have lagged behind the increase in public demand in these countries. The second approach is a case study from Malaysia, which reveals in a more integrated fashion the linkages from rising household income to increased household willingness to pay for conservation, nongovernmental organization activity, and delayed government action. Our findings suggest that domestic funding in UMI tropical countries can play a larger role in (i) closing the funding gap for tropical forest conservation, and (ii) paying for supplementary conservation actions linked to international payments for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries.
Mesohabitat selection in fluvial fishes was studied in a small tropical stream of the Malay Peninsula. A total of 681 individuals representing 24 species were sampled at 45 stations within heterogeneous stream (ca. 1 km in length), in which water depth, water velocity, substrate size, and riparian canopy cover were measured as environmental variables. A canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) yielded a diagram that shows a specific mesohabitat selection of the fish assemblage, in which the species were plotted widely on the CCA1-CCA2 biplot. Generalized linear model also revealed a significant pattern of the mesohabitat selection of several species. Water velocity and substrate size mainly separated on CCA1, indicating variation of pool (deep, slow-flow section) and riffle (shallow, fast-flow section) structures is a primary factor of mesohabitat selection in the fluvial fish assemblage. The mean body weight of species significantly correlated with CCA1; larger species tended to inhabit pools, while small ones occupied riffles. The riparian canopy cover separated on CCA2. The trophic level of species significantly correlated with CCA2; herbivorous species (low trophic level) selected open sites without riparian cover, whereas omnivorous/carnivorous (middle-high trophic level) species preferred highly covered sites. In conclusion, our results suggest that mesohabitat selection is closely related to the species feeding habit, which is consistent with the results of previous studies.
The extent to which environmental heterogeneity can account for tree species coexistence in diverse ecosystems, such as tropical rainforests, is hotly debated, although the importance of spatial variability in contributing to species co-existence is well recognized. Termites contribute to the micro-topographical and nutrient spatial heterogeneity of tropical forests. We therefore investigated whether epigeal termite mounds could contribute to the coexistence of plant species within a 50 ha plot at Pasoh Forest Reserve, Malaysia. Overall, stem density was significantly higher on mounds than in their immediate surroundings, but tree species diversity was significantly lower. Canonical correspondence analysis showed that location on or off mounds significantly influenced species distribution when stems were characterized by basal area. Like studies of termite mounds in other ecosystems, our results suggest that epigeal termite mounds provide a specific microhabitat for the enhanced growth and survival of certain species in these species-rich tropical forests. However, the extent to which epigeal termite mounds facilitate species coexistence warrants further investigation.
The response of tropical forests to global climate variability and change remains poorly understood. Results from long-term studies of permanent forest plots have reported different, and in some cases opposing trends in tropical forest dynamics. In this study, we examined changes in tree growth rates at four long-term permanent tropical forest research plots in relation to variation in solar radiation, temperature and precipitation. Temporal variation in the stand-level growth rates measured at five-year intervals was found to be positively correlated with variation in incoming solar radiation and negatively related to temporal variation in night-time temperatures. Taken alone, neither solar radiation variability nor the effects of night-time temperatures can account for the observed temporal variation in tree growth rates across sites, but when considered together, these two climate variables account for most of the observed temporal variability in tree growth rates. Further analysis indicates that the stand-level response is primarily driven by the responses of smaller-sized trees (less than 20 cm in diameter). The combined temperature and radiation responses identified in this study provide a potential explanation for the conflicting patterns in tree growth rates found in previous studies.
Outdoor mass culture of microalgae in the tropical area is important to minimize its production cost. This study evaluates the growth of Chaetoceros calcitrans in 120 L annular photobioreactors at indoor temperature (Treatment I, 25 +/- 2 degrees C) and outdoor tropical ambient temperature, (Treatment II, 30 +/- 6 degrees C). Each treatment was done in duplicates. For both treatments, C. calcitrans was first grown in starter columns of 10 L capacity for a period of 7 days at 25 +/- 2 degrees C. After 7 days, the 9 L culture was transferred to the annular photobioreactors and subsequently brought to a final volume of 100 L by adding 20 L fresh medium every 5 days. There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) in the dry weight of microalgae grown in natural light and those grown indoor. The results suggest that C. calcitrans can be grown in outdoor conditions, hence, saving time and microalgae production cost for the larviculture industry.
We examined relationships between mortality rate, relative growth rate (RGR), and spatial patterns of three growth stages (small, medium, and large trees) for 11 dipterocarp species in the Pasoh 50-ha plot. Mortality rates for these species tended to be positively correlated with RGRs, although the correlation was significant only at the small-tree stage. Seven species with high growth and mortality rates exhibited peaks in spatial aggregation at small distances (<100 m) in small trees, but this aggregation disappeared in medium and large trees. In contrast, the other four species with low growth and mortality rates aggregated at large distances (>200 m) throughout the three growth stages in all but one species. Negative associations between different growth stages were observed only for the high-mortality species, suggesting density-dependent mortality. The high-mortality species showed habitat associations with topography, soil type, and the forest regeneration phase after gap formation, whereas the three low-mortality species only had associations with the forest regeneration phase. A randomization procedure revealed that these habitat associations explained little of their spatial aggregation. Our results suggest that the growth strategy has a large effect on the structuring of the spatial distribution of tree species through mortality processes.
A power law called the species-area relationship describes the finding that the number of species is proportional to the size of the area in which they are found, raised to an exponent (usually, a number between 0.2 and 0.3). In their Perspective, May and Stumpf discuss new results from a survey of five tropical forest census areas containing a total of a million trees. They explain how this large data set can be used to fine-tune the existing power law so that it provides a better prediction of species diversity in small census samples.
Pristine tropical peat swamp forests (PSFs) represent a unique wetland ecosystem of distinctive hydrology which support unique biodiversity and globally significant stores of soil carbon. Yet in Indonesia and Malaysia, home to 56% of the world's tropical peatland, they are subject to considerable developmental pressures, including widespread drainage to support agricultural needs. In this article, we review the ecology behind the functioning and ecosystem services provided by PSFs, with a particular focus on hydrological processes as well as the role of the forest itself in maintaining those services. Drawing on this, we review the suitability of current policy frameworks and consider the efficacy of their implementation. We suggest that policies in Malaysia and Indonesia are often based around the narrative of oil palm and other major monocrops as drivers of prosperity and development. However, we also argue that this narrative is also being supported by a priori claims concerning the possibility of sustainability of peat swamp exploitation via drainage-based agriculture through the adherence to best management practices. We discuss how this limits their efficacy, uptake and the political will towards enforcement. Further, we consider how both narratives (prosperity and sustainability) clearly exclude important considerations concerning the ecosystem value of tropical PSFs which are dependent on their unimpacted hydrology. Current research clearly shows that the actual debate should be focused not on how to develop drainage-based plantations sustainably, but on whether the sustainable conversion to drainage-based systems is possible at all.
One of the main environmental threats in the tropics is selective logging, which has degraded large areas of forest. In southeast Asia, enrichment planting with seedlings of the dominant group of dipterocarp tree species aims to accelerate restoration of forest structure and functioning. The role of tree diversity in forest restoration is still unclear, but the 'insurance hypothesis' predicts that in temporally and spatially varying environments planting mixtures may stabilize functioning owing to differences in species traits and ecologies. To test for potential insurance effects, we analyse the patterns of seedling mortality and growth in monoculture and mixture plots over the first decade of the Sabah biodiversity experiment. Our results reveal the species differences required for potential insurance effects including a trade-off in which species with denser wood have lower growth rates but higher survival. This trade-off was consistent over time during the first decade, but growth and mortality varied spatially across our 500 ha experiment with species responding to changing conditions in different ways. Overall, average survival rates were extreme in monocultures than mixtures consistent with a potential insurance effect in which monocultures of poorly surviving species risk recruitment failure, whereas monocultures of species with high survival have rates of self-thinning that are potentially wasteful when seedling stocks are limited. Longer-term monitoring as species interactions strengthen will be needed to more comprehensively test to what degree mixtures of species spread risk and use limited seedling stocks more efficiently to increase diversity and restore ecosystem structure and functioning.
Tropical beta diversity, and particularly that of herbivorous insects in rainforests, is often considered to be enormous, but this notion has recently been challenged. Because tropical beta diversity is highly relevant to our view on biodiversity, it is important to gain more insights and to resolve methodological problems that may lead to contradictions in different studies. We used data on two ecologically distinct moth families from Southeast Asia and analyzed separately the contribution of beta components to overall species richness at three spatial scales. Observed diversity partitions were compared under different types of null models. We found that alpha diversity was lower than expected on the basis of null models, whereas hierarchical beta components were larger than expected. Beta components played a significant role in shaping gamma diversity, and their contribution can be high (multiplicative beta >5). We found a reduction in beta components when comparing primary forests to agricultural sites (cf. "biotic homogenization"), but even in these habitats, beta components were still substantial. Our analyses show that beta components do play an important role in our data on tropical herbivorous insects and that these results are not attributable to lumping different habitats when sampling environmental gradients.