Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

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#1)  Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby KoutaR » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:42 am

NTS,

Recently, Darrin (“Shorea”) and I explored Taman Negara and some other interesting places in Peninsular Malaysia. Unfortunately, I have not time to write a detailed trip report but below I report some height measurements. This may sound a strange decision but because the girths of large tropical trees are usually difficult to measure due to buttresses I decided to save weight and not carry a tape. The heights were measured with TruPulse 200X laser.

The first species is Koompassia excelsa (Fabaceae). Comparing is difficult but I would say this became one of my top 3 favorite tree species, besides giant sequoia and Sitka spruce. It has great spreading buttresses, a beautiful yellowish-white smooth columnar trunk with thick spreading limbs high above the ground and mighty, wide crown. The tallest specimen we found was a well-known tree at Tahan River, easily accessible by boat or on foot. The height is 69.3 m (227 ft).

               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa69m-base.jpg
                       
69.3-meter Koompassia excelsa + 1.87-meter Kouta at Tahan River.
               
               


               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa69m-trunk.jpg
                       
The same tree as above.
               
               


               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa69m-crown.jpg
                       
Up towards the crown of the 69.3-meter K. excelsa. The yellowish trunk coming from bottom right with bright green foliage below the Koompassia crown is another large legume, Intsia palembanica; this individual is about 40m tall. The dark leaves, foreground top right, seem to be Knema sp. (Myristicaceae), one of the most abundant, easily identifiable, genus of medium-size trees.
               
               


               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa69m-top.jpg
                       
The crown of the same Koompassia from Tahan River behind the same Intsia as in the previous photo.
               
               

The second tallest specimen was 66.5 m, a well-known tree at Simpang Tualang.

               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa66m-trunk.jpg
                       
66.5-meter Koompassia excelsa at Simpang Tualang.
               
               


               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa66m-trunk+crown.jpg
                       
The same 66.5-meter Koompassia.
               
               


               
                       
TNKoompassia_excelsa66m-crown.jpg
                       
The crown of the same 66.5-meter Koompassia.
               
               

This seems to be the largest tree species and perhaps also the tallest in Taman Negara. 60-meter and taller trees are common. Note that in the fertile volcanic soils of eastern Sabah, the species becomes almost 20 m taller! A truly magnificent tree!

Genus Koompassia also has one other species in Malaysia, K. malaccensis. It is not as large as its great cousin; nevertheless the tallest specimen we measured was 52 m (171 ft) tall, located at the famous canopy walkway.

               
                       
TNKoompassia_malaccensis52m.jpg
                       
52-meter Koompassia malaccensis at the canopy walkway.
               
               

Also many dipterocarps (Dipterocarpaceae) reach 60 m and more. The tallest dipterocarp we measured was Shorea faguetiana. The species seems to be quite common in certain places in Taman Negara. The specimen below is 63.2 m (207 ft) tall. It grows some 100 m off-trail near the second-tallest K. excelsa. Next to it there was a 64-meter K. excelsa.

               
                       
TNShorea_faguetiana632m.jpg
                       
63.2-meter Shorea faguetiana.
               
               



The second-tallest dipterocarp was a 60-meter (197 ft) Anisoptera sp. located at the canopy walkway.

               
                       
TamanNegara-Anisoptera60m-Darrin.jpg
                       
Darrin's photo. The crown of 60-meter Anisoptera sp. photographed from the height of about 30m on the canopy walkway.
               
               

The next tree is Dipterocarpus costulatus, 55.5 m (182 ft). It is located in the buffer zone of Krau Wildlife Reserve. Darrin estimated the buffer zone is “70% virgin”.

               
                       
KrauDipterocarpus_costulatus.jpg
                       
55.5-meter Dipterocarpus costulatus, center. Krau Wildlife Reserve.
               
               


               
                       
KrauDipterocarpus_costulatus-leaves.jpg
                       
Canopy leaves of the 55.5-meter Dipterocarpus costulatus.
               
               

According to my observations, strangler-figs are not particularly abundant in Taman Negara. The tallest Ficus sp. was 55 m (180 ft). I did not have time to (try to) identify the species. The tree grows close to the inland trail between Kuala Tahan and Kuala Trenggan.

               
                       
TNFicus55m.jpg
                       
55-meter Ficus sp.
               
               

The next tree is Triomma malaccensis (Burseraceae) at a board-walk near the canopy walkway.

               
                       
TNTriomma_malaccensis52m.jpg
                       
52-meter Triomma malaccensis.
               
               

One of the species I wanted to see was Dyera costulata (Apocynaceae). The reason is T.C. Whitmore’s species description in his “Tree Flora of Malaya, Vol. 2”. Whereas he usually only writes “very large tree to xx m tall…”, about D. costulata he writes: “Magnificent, huge tree with mighty unbuttressed, columnar bole, reaching over 60 m tall and over 780 cm girth… A true emergent, the huge crown of a mature tree standing proudly clear of the continuous canopy”. Unfortunately, I did not see any giant specimens; the tree below is 50.2 m (165 ft) tall. It is located deeper inside the park.

               
                       
TNDyera_costulata50m-base.jpg
                       
50.2-meter Dyera costulata + Kouta.
               
               


               
                       
TNDyera_costulata50m-trunk.jpg
                       
The same D. costulata.
               
               


               
                       
TNDyera_costulata-leaves.jpg
                       
Canopy leaves of the 50.2-meter D. costulata.
               
               

The last two trees are not particularly tall but interesting from other perspectives. First is Pterygota alata (Malvaceae), con-generic with one of the tallest trees (P. excelsa) Bart has measured in Costa Rica / Panama. It is next to a chalet of Mutiara Resort and in the photo next to Darrin. Its height is 45 m.

               
                       
TNPterygota_alata45m.jpg
                       
45-meter Pterygota alata + Darrin. Mutiara Resort.
               
               

The last tree is Antiaris toxicaria (Moraceae) in the village of Lanchang. The sap of the species was and is used by aborigines (locally called “orang asli”) as arrow poison, just like curare in Amazonas. Particularly fascinating are the reports by the region’s first Europeans about its high toxicity, see: http://www.godecookery.com/mythical/mythic02.htm . The species is fairly common in Taman Negara, too.

               
                       
LanchangAntiaris_toxicaria40m.jpg
                       
40-meter Antiaris toxicaria, Lanchang. Behind it another A. toxicaria.
               
               


               
                       
LanchangAntiaris_toxicaria40m-base.jpg
                       
The base of the 40-meter A. toxicaria. Cuts for taking the tree's sap can be seen.
               
               

Perhaps Darrin can tell more about the parks/places.

Special thanks to Bart for revealing his method to ID tall tropical trees (http://ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=93&t=7516 , message #10). I purchased a superzoom camera for this trip and it was a great help when deciding which fallen leaves were from the tree under interest. Shorea spp. (and other related genera) still posed great difficulties because several Shorea species often grow side by side and they have quite similar leaves. Several times I noticed I was identifying false leaves. As Darrin showed me, some species, notably S. curtisii and S. leprosula, are easy to identify from the crown color or appearance but most species seem to be difficult to tell apart.

Kouta

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#2)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby Shorea » Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:30 pm

Great job Kouta :)

I would add that there are certainly taller trees in Taman Negara, but locating them is tough due to the dense vegetation. Many of the tall/emergent trees were around or above 60 meters tall. I would say they mostly fell somewhere between 55-65m tall.

We also trekked to Bukit Teresek, a hill near Kuala Tahan, which has a panoramic view of the park. And I took many photos from that vantage point. When analyzing the photos, I noticed an enormous tree, most likely Koompassia excelsa, in the far distance, about several kilometers away, which could be two trees side by side. It (or they) was far larger than the surrounding trees, and I am 90% certain that it was 70-80 meters tall at least, knowing by now the heights of the average emergent trees (thanks to Kouta's trusty laser). :)
Image

For those wondering about the bole diameters, although we did not measure them due to practical difficulties (you literally need to haul a ladder around in the jungle), we estimate most of the big trees to be 1-3 meters in diameter (above the buttress point).

We also went to an elephant rehabilitation center (Kuala Gandah) at the border of the Krau Wildlife Reserve on the way to Taman Negara, and Kouta quickly found an Anisoptera just shy of 60 m tall with a 57m tall Koompassia excelsa right behind it. These were merely the residue trees left behind from the forest when they created the elephant center.

Image

The tallest tree there is the Anisoptera species mentioned, and behind it to the right, is a Koompassia excelsa, slightly shorter.

So besides Taman Negara, Krau also has countless tall trees exceeding 60 meters. In fact, Kouta left out mentioning another 61.8 meter Koompassia excelsa that was ailing with barren crown top, near the entrance of the park HQ. It was the first Koompassia excelsa tree that he has seen face to face, I might add :-)

Overall, we concluded from our trip that it is the norm for the trees to exceed 60 meters in the lowland rainforest of central Peninsular Malaysia, which surprised me a little, because I previously thought that 60+m trees were not that common.
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#3)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby KoutaR » Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:41 pm

The Koompassia near the entrance of the Krau HQ was actually 62.7 m. 61.8 m was my first measurement but later I found a still taller top. I also saw a lot of about 60m tall Koompassias and dipterocarps during my 4-day hike.

I would like to add that although measuring in the jungle was quite difficult, indeed, it was a surprise to me that it was not as difficult as in European beech forest. In rainforest, the tallest trees are emergents, the crown usually standing over the neighbouring canopies, but in beech forest, canopies are rather even.
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#4)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby dbhguru » Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:55 pm

Kouta,

  We are all indebted to you and Darrin for this very valuable post. Would you give me permission to enter these trees in the NTS-Cadre-VA Tech Dendrology database? I certainly wouldn't do it without your permission. If you are comfortable with me doing that, I would build a spreadsheet and put field data in as best I could and then send it to you for checking and adding other field data. I would also include a link to your post so people can view the outstanding photos you took.

  BTW, the 69.3-foot Koompassia is an excellent candidate for a functional circumference measurement using the linear projection method Don and I developed. It is just this shape that we had in mind for the new method.

Bob
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#5)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby KoutaR » Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:35 am

Bob,

Yes, you can enter these trees in your database.

Kouta
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#6)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby Bart Bouricius » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:12 pm

Great to get a good on the ground report from peninsular Malasia.  Though I am sure you can get taller trees there, this reminds me of the old growth in Panama, where we found a number of trees over 60 meters including one that Will Blozan measured at just under 69 meters.  I am convinced that we can eventually break 70 meters in Central America, however I am not confident of breaking 80 meters as has already been done in Malasia and Borneo.
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#7)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby Shorea » Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:19 am

I'd like to point out a couple of things.

1) Our trip is probably the first scientific measurement effort done for the trees of Taman Negara and to a much lesser extent, Krau. Previously, nobody knew just how tall the trees grew over there. Now we have a good idea.

Eg: The tallest and biggest tree we measured was the 69.3m Koompassia excelsa near the Tahan River bank, and it is a popular destination for tourists, with many boatmen taking tourists to view that tree. But nobody knew how tall it was exactly. The same for the 66.5 m tree along the trail to Ear Cave (Gua Telinga), at Simpang Tualang. All these years, people assumed it was this or that height. But now, we know just how tall they get.....

There were other interesting aspects of Taman Negara not mentioned, like the ancient cycads found there, the wildlife (we saw lots of wild elephant droppings), the aborigine villages (we visited one), or the boat trips along the rivers which are highly recommended. It is just......awesome to see all these giant trees from both sides of the river. Worth bearing in mind that Taman Negara is a HUGE park, and perhaps the largest and best protected area of lowland dipterocarp forest left in the world; it should be nominated as a World Heritage Site in my opinion. So it is very, very likely that there are taller trees than the ones we encountered, hidden somewhere in this vast area.

2) We would have loved to survey Krau Wildlife Reserve, but unfortunately, it is closed to the public and anyone wishing to enter needs to apply for a permit in writing. The only place open to the public is the elephant rehabilitation center at the border (and it is a highly popular destination for tourists - to play with the elephants). And unfortunately, the officer in charge simply did not bother replying to our emails. So we couldn't enter Krau. Krau and Taman Negara have different geology, and therefore, somewhat different forest types and structure; possibly Krau has more tall trees on average compared to Taman Negara, due to its richer and deeper soil.

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#8)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby Bart Bouricius » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:37 pm

Just wondering, roughly how tall would you say the cycads were, or did you even see any tree forms? The hand full of species in Costa Rica and Panama never get much over 2 meters.
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#9)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby KoutaR » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:36 am

Bart,

We saw one, probably Cycas macrocarpa. Didn't measure it but from the photo I estimate it is perhaps 3 m or 4 m at most. But the species it said to grow to 12 m. See "Plant Description" here:

http://www.chm.frim.gov.my/Bio-Diversit ... ext0=cycas

My photo is RAW and I don't have time to edit it now, I will be off-line for 1,5 weeks. I could post it later if needed. Darrin, do you have a photo of the Cycas near the canopy walkway?

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#10)  Re: Height measuring in Peninsular Malaysia

Postby Shorea » Wed Apr 26, 2017 5:42 am

Well, this is the only photo I have of the cycad near the Canopy Walkway. They grow as scattered individuals in the lowland forest of Taman Negara.

Image

In the main resort grounds, there were planted cycads too, but alas I forgot what name they were. Those planted ones were huge, with multi stem trunks.
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