Unique southeast Asian peat swamp habitats have relatively few distinct plant species

Wim Giesen and Susan Page

Proceedings of the 15th International Peat Congress


peat-swamp-flora, peataswamp-forests, unique-and-opportunistic-species



Peat swamp forests of Southeast Asia are often described as having a unique biodiversity. While these watery and nutrient-poor habitats are indeed unique and include a distinct fauna (esp. fish), the peat swamp flora is much less distinct and shares a surprising number of species with other habitats. Out of 1,436 higher plant species found in Southeast Asian swamps (from Thailand to Papua), 1,332 are found in the lowlands (<300m asl). Of the latter, 212 (16.2%) mainly occur in lowland swamps, while 75 species (5.7%) are shared with freshwater swamps on mineral soils and riparian habitats, 49 species (3.7%) are shared with heath forests, 7 species (0.5%) are shared with montane ecosystems, and 86 species (6.5%) are shared with a range of lowland habitats. 116 (8.9%) species occur in lowland swamps only, including freshwater swamps on mineral soils, and 41 of these species (3.1%) are restricted…