Historical distribution of Sundaland's Dipterocarp rainforests at Quaternary glacial maxima.


The extent of Dipterocarp rainforests on the emergent Sundaland landmass in Southeast Asia during Quaternary glaciations remains a key question. A better understanding of the biogeographic history of Sundaland could help explain current patterns of biodiversity and support the development of effective forest conservation strategies. Dipterocarpaceae trees dominate the rainforests of Sundaland, and their distributions serve as a proxy for rainforest extent. We used species distribution models (SDMs) of 317 Dipterocarp species to estimate the geographic extent of appropriate climatic conditions for rainforest on Sundaland at the last glacial maximum (LGM). The SDMs suggest that the climate of central Sundaland at the LGM was suitable to sustain Dipterocarp rainforest, and that the presence of a previously suggested transequatorial savannah corridor at that time is unlikely. Our findings are supported by palynologic evidence, dynamic vegetation models, extant mammal and termite communities, vascular plant fatty acid stable isotopic compositions, and stable carbon isotopic compositions of cave guano profiles. Although Dipterocarp species richness was generally lower at the LGM, areas of high species richness were mostly found off the current islands and on the emergent Sunda Shelf, indicating substantial species migration and mixing during the transitions between the Quaternary glacial maxima and warm periods such as the present.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1403053111

Cite this paper

@article{Raes2014HistoricalDO, title={Historical distribution of Sundaland's Dipterocarp rainforests at Quaternary glacial maxima.}, author={Niels Raes and Charles H. Cannon and Robert Hijmans and Thomas Piessens and Leng Guan Saw and Peter C. van Welzen and J. W. Ferry Slik}, journal={Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America}, year={2014}, volume={111 47}, pages={16790-5} }