Do epigeal termite mounds increase the diversity of plant habitats in a tropical rain forest in Peninsular Malaysia?
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.