Resource Details

Disturbance and tropical pioneer species: Patterns of association across life history stages

Literature: Journal Articles

Goodale U.M., Ashton M.S., Berlyn G.P., Gregoire T.G, Singhakumara B.M.P., & Tennakoon K.U. 2012. “Disturbance and tropical pioneer species: Patterns of association across life history stages” Forest Ecology and Management, vol. 277, pp. 54–66.

Contact Info

Corresponding author:


  • School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
  • Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenapura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka
  • Biology Program, Faculty of Science, University of Brunei Darussalam, Jalan Tungku Link, Gadong BE 1410, Brunei Darussalam


Forest Ecology and Management

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Species Info

  • Trema orientalis (native)
  • Macaranga peltata (native)
  • Macaranga indica (native)
  • Dillenia triquetra (native; critically endangered)
  • Schumacheria castaneifolia (native)
  • Wendlandia bicuspidata (native)
  • Alstonia macrophylla (native)
  • Melastoma malabathricum (native)


  • The authors studied pioneer species common in the Sinharaja World Heritage Reserve in Sri Lanka to characterize differences in relation to canopy openness and type, and intensity of disturbance using a combination of field work, canopy photos, and regression models.
  • Using a combination of sub plots and transects, seedling, sapling, and larger size classes of eight tree species (Alstonia macrophylla, Dillenia triquetra, Macaranga indica, Macaranga peltata, Melastoma malabathricum, Schumacheria castaneifolia, Trema orientalis, and Wendlandia bicuspidate) were sampled in three ~100 ha areas within the Sinharaja forest reserve, adjacent to the reserve, and 13 km away.
  • Each individual’s light environment, stage of forest development and disturbance characteristics was assessed. Additionally, canopy hemispherical photographs and conditions of disturbance were analyzed and the probability of species’ occurrence and the relative importance of disturbance characteristics were assessed using multinomial logistical regression models.
  • Canopy openness demonstrated the greatest association with seedling and sapling distribution. In seedlings and saplings, disturbance type was more influential than both the historical condition of disturbance and the intensity of the disturbance, with some evidence that species do occur differentially in certain disturbance types.
  • The authors conclude that the study provides evidence that pioneers of all life history stages differentiate in relation to amount of light and disturbance characteristics and that such differentiations are important mechanisms for the coexistence and diversity of early successional tropical tree species.
  • The authors suggest that species selection for reforestation and restoration match the degree of exposure, history and type of disturbance of the site.

Geographical Region

  • South Asia
  • Ecosystems

  • Tropical Wet Forest
  • Country

  • Sri Lanka
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