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Data from: Transient dominance in a central African rain forest

Cite this dataset

Newbery, David McClintock; van der Burgt, Xander M.; Worbes, Martin; Chuyong, George B. (2013). Data from: Transient dominance in a central African rain forest [Dataset]. Dryad.


The large-crowned emergent tree Microberlinia bisulcata dominates rainforest groves at Korup, along with two co-dominants Tetraberlinia bifoliolata and T. korupensis. M. bisulcata has a pronounced modal size frequency distribution around ~110 cm stem diameter: its recruitment potential is very poor. It is a long-lived light-demanding species, one of many found in African forests. Tetraberlinia species lack modality, are more shade-tolerant and recruit better. All three species are ectomycorrhizal. M. bisulcata dominates grove basal area, even though it has similar numbers of trees (≥ 50 cm stem diameter) as each of the other two species. This situation presented a conundrum which prompted a long-term study of grove dynamics. Enumerations of two plots (82.5 and 56.25 ha) between 1990 and 2010 showed mortality and recruitment of M. bisulcata to be very low (both rates ~0.2 %/yr) compared with Tetraberlinia (2.4, 0.8 %/yr), and M. bisulcata grows twice as fast as the Tetraberlinia. Ordinations indicated that these three species determined community structure by their strong negative associations whilst other species showed almost none. Ranked species abundance curves fitted the Zipf-Mandelbrot model well, and allowed ‘over-dominance’ of M. bisulcata to be estimated. Spatial analysis indicated strong repulsion by clusters of large (50 – < 100 cm) and very large (> 100 cm) M. bisulcata of their own medium-sized (10 – < 50 cm) trees and all sizes of Tetraberlinia. This was interpreted as competition by M. bisulcata increasing its dominance, but also inhibition of its own replacement potential. Stem coring showed a modal age of ~200 year for M. bisulcata, but with large size variation (50 – 150 cm). Fifty-year model projections suggested little change in medium, decreases in large, and increases in very large trees of M. bisulcata, accompanied by overall decreases in medium and large trees of Tetraberlinia species. Realistically increasing very-large-tree mortality led to grove collapse without short-term replacement. M. bisulcata most likely depends on climatic events to rebuild its stands: the ratio of disturbance interval to median species’ longevity is important. A new theory of transient dominance explains how M. bisulcata may be cycling in abundance over time and displaying non-equilibrium dynamics.

Usage notes


Western Central Africa
Korup National Park