Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Changes in liana density over 30 years in a Bornean rain forest supports the escape hypothesis


Newbery, David; Zahnd, Cedric; Campbell, Elaine (2021), Data from: Changes in liana density over 30 years in a Bornean rain forest supports the escape hypothesis, Dryad, Dataset,


In two permanent plots of lowland dipterocarp forest at Danum a liana census in 1988 was repeated in 2018 using the same method. Trees ≥ 30 cm gbh (girth at breast height) were recorded for number of lianas ≥ 2 cm gbh on their stems. The forest was evidently in a late stage of recovery from a large natural disturbance. Over the interval, mean number of lianas per tree decreased by 22 and 34 % in plots 1 and 2. By 2018 there were relatively more trees with few lianas and relatively fewer trees with many lianas than in 1988. The redistribution was strongest for overstorey trees of the Dipterocarpaceae (more with no lianas by 2018) and understorey trees of the Euphorbiaceae (many losing high loads in plot 2).  Proportion of trees with lianas rose overall by 3.5%.  Number of lianas per tree showed a quadratic relationship with tree size (ln[gbh]): maximal for large trees, fewer for smaller and very large trees. Tree survival and stem growth rate were significantly negatively related to number of lianas, after accounting for spatial autocorrelation. Monte Carlo random samples of half of trees in 1988 were compared with the other half of trees in 2018. Relative frequency distributions differed significantly over time, but dipterocarps and euphorbs varied noticeably in their liana dynamics between plots. Regressions achieved best significant fits when number of lianas was a function of date, ln(gbh) and ln(gbh)2, but differently in the plots reflecting complicated host-liana dynamics. Analysis of most abundant trees species, individually, highlighted a group of emergent dipterocarps with low liana counts decreasing with time. Building on an earlier hypothesis, these trees lose their lianas with branch shedding, as they move into, and emerge from, the main canopy. They escape from the parasite. The process may in part explain the uneven nature of the forest canopy at Danum. Change in liana density was contingent on forest history and site succession, and plot-level structure and dynamics. Liana promotion in intermittent dry periods was seemingly being offset by closing of the forest and continued dominance by the Dipterocarpaceae.


The main data file, ‘liana_census_data.csv’ contains the counts of lianas (≥ 2 cm gbh, or girth at breast height [1.3 m]), ‘nr_liana88’ and ‘nr_liana18’, on trees of stem gbh ≥ 30 cm alive at the time of census 1 (1988; [1]) and 2 (2018). Where a tree gbh value is missing (indicated as ‘NA’), this means that either a tree of 1988 had died by 2018, or one of 2018 had not yet recruited by 1988. The data come from two main permanent dynamics plots at Danum, each 4 ha in area, coded 1 or 2 in ‘plot’, and referred to as MP1 and MP2 in the paper. Tree gbhs (‘gbh88’, ‘gbh18’) are, in fact, those of the main plot tree censuses in 1986 [2] and 2015 [unpubl. data, Newbery D. M. et al.]: any individuals dying 1986-88 or 2015-18 were discounted, and any recruiting in these periods were also not considered, for the purposes of the two liana censuses. The file has 5173 records.

Each tree, referenced by its ‘tag’ number, had been identified, and its ‘code’ is a concatenation of 4-digit genus and epithet abbreviations. Full species names for each code are given in ‘liana_census_dict.xls’.  Likewise, ‘fam’ has the family abbreviations, found in full next to the species names. They follow the revised and updated nomenclature of 2015, retrospectively applied to the 1986 tree data. The three columns ‘x’, ‘y’, and ‘z’, are the plot-specific X- and Y-coordinates (plot dimensions: 100 m E-W by 400 m S-N respectively) for the trees (in m), and the elevations of the ground surface (in m) at those locations, referenced to each plot’s SW corner[3].


[1] Campbell, E. J. F. & Newbery, D. M. 1993 Ecological relationships between lianas and trees in lowland rain forest in Sabah, East Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 9, 469-490.

[2] Newbery, D. M., Campbell, E. J. F., Lee, Y. F., Ridsdale, C. E. & Still, M. J. 1992 Primary lowland dipterocarp forest at Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia: structure, relative abundance and family composition. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. Ser. B-Biol. Sci. 335, 341-356.

[3] Lingenfelder, M. & Newbery, D. M. 2009 On the detection of dynamic responses in a drought-perturbed tropical rainforest in Borneo. Plant Ecology 201, 267-290.


Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung, Award: 3100-59088 and 31003A-110250

Natural Environment Research Council, Award: GR3/5555