Life at the top

Life at the top Asplenium nidus (Bird’s Nest fern) occurs within the rainforest canopy

Dr William Foster, University of Cambridge
Dr Keith Hamer, University of Leeds
Dr Jane Hill, University of York
Professor Maryati Mohamed, Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Dr Glen Reynolds, Royal Society SE Asia Rainforest Research Programme
Dr Waidi Sinun, Danum Valley Management Committee/Sabah Foundation
Dr Chey Vun Khen, Forest Research Centre, Sabah

Explore the biodiversity of tropical rainforest canopies

Researchers at the Universities of York, Cambridge, Leeds, and Sabah (Malaysia) working in the Danum Valley Conservation Area are studying the tropical rainforest to examine the distribution and abundance of species as well as the effects of commercial selective logging.

Tropical rainforests are one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth. Recent studies have focussed on biodiversity in the forest canopy, and the team’s findings have changed our understanding of how this important ecosystem works. 

“Until recently, the forest canopy was not studied in detail.  Recent research on canopy ferns has shown that they trap leaf litter and so allow many more invertebrates to live in the canopy,” says Dr Jane Hill, University of York.  “This has a huge implication for our understanding of the forest, as well as the severity of the consequences of climate change and logging.”

The research team has been studying for over a decade at a field site in Borneo, a globally diverse ‘hotspot’.  A wide range of plant and animal species has been studied, and new species have been identified, showing the area is of great scientific importance and must be preserved. 

“There are many environmental and economic challenges faced by the rainforest,” says Jane.  “Our research is showing how uniquely diverse this ecosystem is, and the importance of conservation to help the health of the whole planet.”