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Forest vegetation of Xishuangbanna, south China
Author: Zhu Hua
Update time: 2010-01-11
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  Xishuangbanna of southern Yunnan is biogeographically located at a transitional zone from tropical southeast (SE) Asia to subtropical east Asia and is at the junction of the Indian and Burmese plates of Gondwana and the Eurasian plate of Laurasia. The region, though surprisingly far from the equator and at a relatively high altitude, has a rich tropical flora and a typical tropical rain forest in the lowland areas. Based on physiognomic and ecological characteristics, floristic composition and habitats combined, the primary vegetation in Xishuangbanna can be organized into four main vegetation types: tropical rain forest, tropical seasonal moist forest, tropical montane evergreen broad-leaved forest and tropical monsoon forest. The tropical rain forest can be classified into two subtypes, i.e. a tropical seasonal rain forest in the lowlands and a tropical montane rain forest at higher elevations. The tropical seasonal rain forest has almost the same forest profile and physiognomic characteristics as equatorial lowland rain forests and is a type of truly tropical rain forest. Because of conspicuous similarity on ecological and floristic characteristics, the tropical rain forest in Xishuangbanna is a type of tropical Asian rain forest. However, since the tropical rain forest of Xishuangbanna occurs at the northern edge of tropical SE Asia, it differs from typical lowland rain forests in equatorial areas in having some deciduous trees in the canopy layer, fewer megaphanerophytes and epiphytes but more abundant lianas and more plants with microphyll. It is a type of semi-evergreen rain forest at the northern edge of the tropical zone. The tropical montane rain forest occurs at wet montane habitats and is similar to the lower montane rain forest in equatorial Asia in floristic composition and physiognomy. It is a type of lower montane rain forests within the broader category of tropical rain forests. The tropical seasonal moist forest occurs on middle and upper limestone slopes. It is similar to the tropical montane evergreen broad-leaved forest in the region in physiognomy, but differs from the latter in floristic composition. It is a vegetation type on limestone at high elevations. The monsoon forest in Xishuangbanna is a tropical deciduous forest under the influence of a strong monsoon climate and is considered to be a transitional vegetation type between a tropical rain forest and savanna in physiognomy and distribution. The tropical montane evergreen broad-leaved forest is the main montane vegetation type in the region. It is dominated largely by the families Fagaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Theaceae and Lauraceae. It differs from tropical lower montane rain forests in its lack of epiphytes and in having more abundant lianas and plants with compound leaves. It is considered to be a distinct vegetation type from the northern margin of mainland southeastern Asia, controlled by a strong seasonal climate, based on its floristic and physiognomic characteristics.


For more information, please read: Forest vegetation of Xishuangbanna, south China

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Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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