Dipterocarpoideae: the largest of the subfamilies, it contains 13 genera and about 475 species. Distribution includes the
Sri Lanka, India,
Southeast Asia to
New Guinea, and a large distribution in Borneo, where they form the dominant species in the lowland forests. North Borneo (
Sarawak) is the richest area in the world for dipterocarp species. The Dipterocarpoideae can be divided morphologically into two groups, and the tribe names Shoreae and Dipterocarpeae are sometimes used, but genetic evidence so far does not support this division:
Shoreae group (Balanocarpus, Hopea, Parashorea, Shorea). The genera of this group have imbricate sepals in fruit, grouped vessels, resin canals in tangential bands, and basic chromosome number x = 7. A recent molecular study suggests that the genus Hopea forms a clade with Shorea sections Anthoshorea and Doona, and should be merged into Shorea.
A recent genetic study found that the Asian dipterocarps share a common ancestor with the
Sarcolaenaceae, a tree family endemic to Madagascar. This suggests that ancestor of the dipterocarps originated in the southern supercontinent of
Gondwana, and that the common ancestor of the Asian dipterocarps and the Sarcolaenaceae was found in the India-Madagascar-Seychelles land mass millions of years ago, and were carried northward by India, which later collided with Asia and allowed the dipterocarps to spread across Southeast Asia and Malaysia. The first dipterocarp pollen has been found in Myanmar (which at that time was part of the
Indian plate) and it dates from the upper
Oligocene. The sample appears to slowly increase in terms of diversity and abundance across the region into the mid-
Miocene. Chemical traces of dipterocarp resins have been found dating back to the
Eocene of India. The oldest fossil of the family are from the latest Cretaceous (
Intertrappean Beds of India, assignable to the extant genus Dipterocarpus.
Dipterocarpaceae species can be either evergreen or deciduous. Species occurring in Thailand grow from sea level to about 1300 m elevation. Environments in which the species of the family occur in Thailand include lowland dipterocarp forest 0–350 m, riparian fringe, limestone hills, and coastal hills.
As the dominant tree in Southeast Asia, the Dipterocarp family has seen extensive study relating to its conservation status. They are a keystone species of the native forests of this region, and are essential to their function and structure.
One study by Pang et al. examined the impacts of
climate change and land cover on the distribution of this important tree family in the Philippines. They used species distribution models (SDMs) for 19 species that were projected onto both current and future climate scenarios, with current land cover incorporated as well. They found that the current land cover alone reduced the species distributions by 67%, and 37% in protected areas. On the other hand, climate change reduced species distributions by 16-27% in both protected and unprotected areas. There was also an upward shift in elevation of species distribution as a result of climate change, as habitats changed. They concluded that there was a need to improve protected area planning as refuges for critical species, with SDMs proving to be a useful tool for providing projections that can then be incorporated into this planning process.
Another paper by Shishir et al. also investigated the potential effects of climate change on a threatened Dipterocarp tree in Purbachal, Bangladesh. Using a model that incorporated nine different environmental variables such as climate, geography, and soil conditions, they looked at two climate scenarios. They found that precipitation and soil nitrogen were the largest determinants of distribution, and that suitable habitat for this species will decline by 21-28% relative to the present land area as a result of climate change.
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^M. Ducousso, G. Béna, C. Bourgeois, B. Buyck, G. Eyssartier, M. Vincelette, R. Rabevohitra, L. Randrihasipara, B. Dreyfus, Y. Prin. The last common ancestor of Sarcolaenaceae and Asian dipterocarp trees was ectomycorrhizal before the India-Madagascar separation, about 88 million years ago. Molecular Ecology 13: 231 January 2004.
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^Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016), "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161 (2): 105–20,