Category: News

The Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project verified to VERRA standards

The Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project has had its first Monitoring Report verified, an achievement that demonstrates that it meets internationally recognised standards for its Climate, Community and Biodiversity progress.

This milestone enables the conservation initiative, which is protecting and restoring 83,381 ha of tropical rainforest in the Tongod and Kinabatangan district in the Malaysia state of Sabah, to generate its first tranche of Verified Carbon Units (VCU).

The project has been developed as a public private partnership between Sabah Forestry Department, Rakyat Berjaya Sdn. Bhd. of Yayasan Sabah, and Permian Malaysia, a subsidiary of Permian Global. Permian Global has provided the bulk of the investment for the project. The project has been carried out in a very transparent manner involving state authorities and local NGO involvement especially operational support from the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) and community-focussed organisation, the PACOS Trust.  The forest area, which was selectively logged in the past, has been protected from further logging or degradation and can now regenerate.

Dr Glen Reynolds, SEARRP Director, said: “it really is fantastic to see this project over the line and generating revenues to protect this crucial area of forest – which aside from having enormous conservation, climate mitigation and biodiversity value in its own right, plays a critical role in buffering the primary forests of Danum Valley. SEARRP is delighted to partner with Permian, the Sabah Foundation, Sabah Forestry Department and the PACOS Trust in the delivery of this ground-breaking, science led project. I would also like to thank the Rainforest Trust for providing a grant which co-funded, with Permian and SEARRP, the initial development of the project”.

The full press release can be accessed here.

Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project Area.

Job Opportunities at SEARRP-ecologist and data scientist positions

We are seeking ecologist and data scientist positions focussing on tropical rainforest ecosystem analysis in a virtual rainforest project jointly run by the Imperial College London (UK) with the SE Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP). The positions will be based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah with SEARRP. We are aiming to build a team with diverse set of skills and knowledge, to examine rainforest structure and dynamics, and welcome applicants from graduates, postdocs and industry professionals who might have either relevant ecological knowledge or technical data science skills, including applicants with computer science, maths, engineering and physics background. The attachment includes a more detailed job description, and please do circulate to potentially interested colleagues and relevant contacts. Please submit your CV and cover letter to r.ewers@imperial.ac.uk

SEARRP ecologist and data science positions

Post-field trip learning & sharing sessions with schools involved in Kembara Rimba Taliwas EE Programme

Group photo with Visionary Secondary School, Tawau

The Kembara Rimba Taliwas Environmental Education programme is an interactive initiative where young Sabahans discover biodiversity, explore natural history and gain an understanding of the current issues impacting the rainforest and local people. Between January 24 and 25, 2024, SEARRP organised two post-field trip learning and sharing sessions in Kinabatangan and Tawau. These sessions provided a platform to present the programmes findings, including observations on iNaturalist, while also gathering valuable feedback from teachers and students regarding the Kembara Rimba Environmental Education programme at Taliwas.

Students presenting the action agenda

Student-led breakout groups & discussions

Action agenda ideas from students

 

 

 

A significant aspect of the program involved instructing participants on the use of the iNaturalist application. iNaturalist is a social network connecting naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists, focused on mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity worldwide. The Kembara Rimba Taliwas project page documented a total of 288 observations and 131 species throughout the duration of the programme. We are so pleased with these numbers and want to extend a special congratulations to teacher Lawrentius from SM Visi Tawau and student Siti Suhadah binti Barin, SMK Bukit Garam Kinabatangan, for achieving the highest recorded observations on the iNaturalist project page!

Another highlight was a visit from SEARRP Scientist Sui Peng Heon, who gave an Environmental Education talk on The Importance of Scavengers: What happens to dead animals in the rainforest?. This unique opportunity allowed students to interact with a Malaysian scientist and gain insights into her research experiences. We were delighted to witness the enthusiasm among students and hope that this programme serves as an inspiration to all participants now and in to the future.

In addition to sharing findings for iNaturalist, students were encouraged to recount their experiences participating in the programme. Positive reflections were shared by all participants, highlighting their increased understanding of rainforest conservation and EE awareness. Many expressed their desire for this to become an annual initiative. During a breakout activity, students collaborated in groups to devise youth-led actions promoting the protection and conservation of Sabah’s forests. Suggested action points included: spreading environmental awareness through social media, creating environmental conservation clubs in schools, initiating tree planting projects, and using upcycled materials for school decorations.

Group presentation on the action agenda

Breakout group discussions 

SEARRP presentation on the project findings & outputs

SEARRP is so thankful to the teachers and schools who have participated in this EE programme. We have learned so much from the schools that we have worked with and we look forward to taking the lessons learned from this experience to continue and improve our Environmental Education programmes across Sabah.

Group photo with students from SMK Bukit Garam and SMK Bukit Garam II

Dr Stephen Sutton

Dr Stephen Sutton

I’m very sad to inform you that Dr Stephen Sutton – who played such a seminal role with SEARRP and the Danum Valley research programme for many years – died on the 31st December in Kota Kinabalu.

Stephen had a long career as a lecturer at the University of Leeds before taking up the position of Research Coordinator of the then Royal Society South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) in the late 1980’s. Stephen led SEARRP for over 10 years, during which time Danum’s position as one of the leading field research stations in the tropics was cemented – not least as a result of the network of leading tropical ecologists which Stephen encouraged to base studies at Danum (many of whom, and their former students, continue to work as part of the programme to this day). He also forged close and enduring links with many Malaysian scientists and research institutions, including Universiti Malaysia Sabah during its formative years and the Forest Research Centre at Sepilok.

Stephen had an active and highly productive retirement after leaving his role with SEARRP and continued to collaborate on many projects and initiatives that were close to his heart – including an exhaustive description of the Pyralid moths of Borneo and, most recently, the conservation of the Kinabalu Birdwing butterfly (Troides andromache). Stephen’s work with the Kinabalu Birdwing culminated in the species being declared as the State Butterfly of Sabah at the beginning of 2023; a fitting and charming closing act of a life very well lived.

From a personal perspective, I will miss Stephen greatly both as a dear friend and trusted mentor; Stephen recruited me as Senior Scientist at Danum – which was quite a leap of faith given my lack of experience, though this was rather typical of a man who nurtured the careers of numerous young scientists. Stephen’s erudite humour remained undimmed to the very last and I, along with so many others I’m sure, will remember him so very fondly and with such gratitude – not just for his passion for science and conservation, but also for his kindness, wit and generosity of spirit.

On behalf of SEARRP, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to Stephen’s family – particularly his wife Rosalind.

Glen Reynolds
SEARRP Executive Director

Toolkit for Ecosystem Services Site-Based Assessment Symposium

Participant Photo at the Symposium on Assessing Ecosystem Services in the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Ecological Corridors using TESSA

A symposium based on evaluating ecosystem benefits within the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Ecological Corridors took place at the Tamu Hotel & Suites in Kuala Lumpur on December 5, 2023. This meeting focused on utilising the Toolkit for Ecosystem Services Site-Based Assessment (TESSA) to investigate and present discoveries regarding four key ecosystem services across eight states in the CFS landscape. These services encompassed global climate regulation (measured by estimating above-ground carbon stocks), nature-based recreation or tourism, water-related services, and cultural services.

Over 110 participants attended, representing various stakeholders, including governmental bodies such as the Department of Wildlife Protection and National Parks (PERHILITAN), Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Department of Environment (DOE), Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID), Department of Mineral and Geoscience Malaysia, PLANMalaysia, Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change (NRECC), and others actively involved in CFS matters.

TESSA Symposium poster exhibitions

The symposium commenced with an opening address by YBhg. Dato’ Mohd Rahim bin Rani, Deputy Director-General of Forestry Peninsular Malaysia (Operations and Technical). The project funder, Yayasan Hasanah was represented by its Senior Manager, YBrs. Puan Shreevidya Anandan and SEARRP was represented by Dato’ Henry Barlow, a member of the UK Board of Trustees. Following the formalities, each of the eight TESSA teams showcased their assessment methods and findings through a poster exhibition. The presentations were divided into three sessions, each with a video presentation showing the assessment of water-based services, nature-based recreation services, and climate regulation services.

TESSA presentations sessions on water-based services, nature-based recreation services, and climate regulation services.

The insights gained from TESSA assessments are expected to serve as a valuable resource for conservation and environmental management within the CFS area, which represents a crucial starting point for key stakeholders to further explore the potential of ecosystem services provided by the CFS ecological corridors, potentially guiding future endeavors in this critical area.

TESSA symposium discussion session

Important Announcement for Permit Applications!

Please be advised that effective December 1st 2023, Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon permit applications for RESEARCH, PHOTOGRAPHY & FILMING, and DRONE will only be processed through the DaMaI Management Committee Meetings that take place quarterly. The following dates are the deadlines for permit application submissions for year 2024. If you have any questions or require further information please contact the DaMaI secretariat at DaMaI.Secretariat@gmail.com.

2024 DaMaI Permit Application Deadline

 

Wrapping up the Kembara Rimba Taliwas Environmental Education Programme – the final school group

Group photo with participants from SMK Sepagaya, project partners from Seratu Ataai & SEARRP RAs

The two year Kembara Rimba Taliwas Environmental Education Programme, a project that conducts educational trips to the Taliwas River and Conservation Area (TRCA) in Eastern Sabah, has come to an end. From October 20th to 22nd, 2023, the 8th group of students from SMK Segapaya participated in the Environmental Education (EE) program, marking the final school group for this amazing initiative.

During this three-day, two-night programme, students engaged in a series of interactive and scientifically informed environmental education initiatives. These initiatives were carefully designed to simplify complex scientific environmental information in order to enhance the accessibility for participants and to help them gain an understanding of the current issues impacting rainforest and local people. This was achieved by utilising a dedicated EE toolkit that is comprised of lessons, worksheets and hands-on activities that have all been specifically developed for the Kembara Rimba Taliwas EE programme.

Students presenting on plant adaptation in rainforest the canopy layer

The last EE programme at TRCA was made even more special by the participation of our NGO partner, Seratu Ataai. We carried out several activities together, like extracting hormones from elephant dung, which is a simple and student-friendly sampling technique. We also helped students grasp the importance of Bornean elephant conservation by teaching them about animal cells and creating 3D cell models.

Hands-on activity with Seratu Ataai- Building 3D models of animal cells

Over the course of two years, the Kembara Rimba Taliwas programme has successfully engaged a total of 236 students and 16 teachers from eight different schools: SMK Kinabutan, SMK Bukit Garam, SMK Agaseh, SMK Sukau, SM Visi, SMK Bukit Garam II, SMK Paris, and SMK Sepagaya. During this time, SEARRP has received enthusiastic feedback from all participating schools, with most students and teachers expressing a keen interest in participating in future Environmental Education programmes with us.

Sampling activity- Students collecting macroinvertebrates from the Taliwas River.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all the schools that have been involved in this journey, from the start with the  Kembara Rimba Taliwas EE Online Series in August 2023 to the recent school trip to TRCA. Our hope is that this programme has nurtured a sense of environmental stewardship and an increased understanding of the importance of conservation among the participants. With the knowledge, information, and insights shared by our experienced trainers, we aspire to have kindled a lasting interest in exploring the wonders of our Bornean rainforest.

Students attending SEARRP’s EE Outreach Officer Imelda’s presentation on the role of animals in the forest

Field work activity- students learning how to identify plant functional groups using quadrat sampling technique

 

 

 

SEARRP Data Submission on Zenodo Starting the 1st of January 2024

With effect from the 1st January 2024, we will require all researchers working with SEARRP to deposit the most recent version of all datasets generated and collected as part of the programme. All datasets provided must have accompanying completed metadata to enable and simplify interpretation. All deposited datasets will be stored on Zenodo, which enables open access to the research data and provides a permanent DOI for each dataset. Please take a minute to review our data policy and submission process here . Over time, and in collaboration with previous SEARRP scientists, we plan to compile historic datasets collected prior to the implementation date (1st January 2024) of this new policy. SEARRP’s Data Manager, Samuel Lee, will be in touch over the coming months to discuss this in further detail.

TESSA Knowledge Sharing & Exchange Visit in Tasik Chini, Pahang

TESSA group with Orang Asli representatives

The TESSA Pahang Team, comprised of members from the Tasik Chini Research Centre at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and the Pahang Forestry Department, in collaboration with SEARRP, recently implemented an Ecosystem Service Assessment in the Central Forest Spine, using the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA). Together the team organised a Knowledge Sharing and Exchange Visit Programme in Tasik Chini, Pahang, Malaysia which took place on August 7th and 8th, 2023. The event was attended by 33 TESSA team members hailing from Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Selangor, and Terengganu. Supported by Yayasan Hasanah, the primary objective of this programme was to share the team’s expertise in evaluating cultural ecosystem services through the utilisation of the TESSA toolkit. Additionally, the programme sought to enhance the understanding of the relationship between forest and lake ecosystems and the culture of the Orang Asli community in Tasik Chini.

Amelia from the TESSA Pahang team detailing their experience conducting the TESSA assessment in the Tasik Chini area

Orang Asli representatives explaining the use of plants from Tasik Chini for traditional medicine

 

The programme’s first day started with a sharing session led by the Orang Asli from the Jakun tribe. They discussed the influence of ecosystem services on their cultural beliefs and well-being. The morning session featured a guided forest trek led by Orang Asli guides who explained the forest’s interconnectedness with their traditions, customs, and culture. Additionally, they showcased medicinal forest plant species, explaining their preparation and emphasising the importance of responsible forest resource management. Following the guided walk, the local communities shared their beliefs and recounted the history of Tasik Chini, shedding light on the tradition of passing down stories to younger generations. And indeed the storytelling session proved to be very interesting.

Orang Asli representative showing the ‘sumpit’ or Jakun blowpipe

During the afternoon session, the group embarked on a boat ride to explore the Tasik Chini area and visited the Orang Asli villages, namely Kampung Cendahan and Kampung Sri Gumum. This provided the TESSA team members with the opportunity to meet with the communities, gain insights into their daily lives, acquire knowledge about their traditional hunting tools, specifically the blowpipe, including hands-on instructions on how to use it!!

Visit to Jakun community- Kampung Sri Gumum

On the last day of the programme, the group visited SK Tasik Chini (JHEOA), a school originally established by the Department of Orang Asli Development (JaKOA) and currently overseen by the District Education Office under the Pahang State Education Department. During the visit, the TESSA team were treated to a traditional performance by Orang Asli students, featuring the Kelundang and Sewang performance.This performance marked the conclusion of the programme, and the SEARRP team hopes that TESSA trainees have acquired valuable knowledge and experiences through the various sharing and exchange visits organised during the event.

Traditional performance by the students of SK Tasik Chini.

The Sabah Biodiversity Experiment is featured in The Guardian

Landscape picture of oil palm plantation in Sabah, Malaysia Photo Credit Chien Lee

In a recent in-depth report by The Guardian, the groundbreaking work conducted at the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment has been highlighted following a publication in Science Advances. This ongoing 20-year project stands as one of the world’s largest experiments of its kind and sheds light on the immense advantages of repopulating logged tropical forests with a diverse array of native tree species. The study’s findings underscore that increased diversity in replanting leads to swifter forest recovery in terms of canopy area and tree biomass when compared to areas undergoing natural regeneration or planted with fewer species. Notably, Professor Andrew Hector from the University of Oxford and Ryan Veryard emphasised that this approach not only expedites the rejuvenation of tree cover but also enriches biodiversity and vital ecosystem services like carbon sequestration. The research team found that the probable reason for the better recovery was that different tree species occupied distinct niches within the forest ecosystem and so diverse mixtures of planted species complemented each other and increased the effective functioning of the whole ecosystem.  This study’s insights underscore the paramount importance of preserving biodiversity in untouched forests and provide valuable guidance for combatting climate change and mitigating biodiversity decline through effective forest restoration strategies. For the full article, please refer here.