Clidemia hirta is a highly invasive shrub in tropical forests throughout the world, but has had little success invading mainland sites and undisturbed forests. In the early 1990s, this plant was found to have invaded an unexpected site, an undisturbed continental tropical forest at Pasoh, Peninsular Malaysia. In 1997, a study was conducted of the C. hirta population at the Pasoh Forest Reserve. A demographic survey of the 50-ha long-term research plot at Pasoh located 1002 C. hirta individuals, 69 of which were reproductive at the time of the study. All but 8 individuals were located in high light gaps or gap edges. Relative growth rates were significantly higher in gaps and gap edges than in the understory, and no reproductive individuals were found in the understory. Mean plant size and dry biomass density increased steadily over the course of the study, while the observed mortality rate was 0 percent over two months. The biomass density of Clidemia at Pasoh was <500 g/ha at the conclusion of this study, but because the population is confined almost exclusively to high light environments, its density in these sites is much higher. The location of C. hirta plants in gaps was significantly correlated with past disturbance by wild pigs, suggesting that soil disturbance and light availability are essential for their establishment. The implication of this study is that by competing with native species in gaps, C. hirta invasion has the potential to alter forest regeneration at Pasoh. Changing land use practices near the reserve have increased the number of wild pigs, and thus the level of disturbance, which may explain the recent success of C. hirta at Pasoh.
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Vol. 33 • No. 1