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Understanding the long-term impact of projected climate change on tropical rainforests is critical given their central role in the Earth's system. Palaeoecological records can provide a valuable perspective on this problem. Here, we examine the effects of past climatic changes on the dominant forest type of Southeast Asia - lowland dipterocarp forest. We use a range of proxies extracted from a 1400-yr-old lacustrine sedimentary sequence from north-eastern Philippines to determine long-term vegetation responses of lowland dipterocarp forest, including its dominant tree group dipterocarps, to changes in precipitation, fire and nutrient availability over time. Our results show a positive relationship between dipterocarp pollen accumulation rates (PARs) and leaf wax hydrogen isotope values, which suggests a negative effect of drier conditions on dipterocarp abundance. Furthermore, we find a positive relationship between dipterocarp PARs and the proxy for phosphorus availability, which suggests phosphorus controls the productivity of these keystone trees on longer time scales. Other pollen taxa show widely varying relationships with the abiotic factors, demonstrating a high diversity of plant functional responses. Our findings provide novel insights into lowland dipterocarp forest responses to changing climatic conditions in the past and highlight potential impacts of future climate change on this globally important ecosystem.

Original publication




Journal article


New Phytol

Publication Date



El Niño-Southern Oscillation, climate change, fire activity, forest productivity, nutrient availability, plant community composition, tropical rainforest, vegetation responses