Welcome to the second in our new series of quarterly newsletters!
As you’ll read in the following sections, it’s been a busy and pretty successful few months for SEARRP – during which we’ve entered into some exciting new grant-supported partnerships, including in both Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia.
For the first time in decades, we’ll be working on-the-ground in mainland Malaysia in a project which focuses on assessing ecosystem services in critical linkages in the Central Forest Spine – a huge (~5 million hectare) swathe of forest which comprises the bulk of the remaining forest in Peninsular Malaysia. This three-year programme will be conducted in partnership with the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia in collaboration with the Tropical Biology Association and with the support of the Hasanah Foundation.
In an exciting, new development for SEARRP, we’ve been awarded a grant from National Geographic to design and deliver, in partnership with Swansea University and the Sabah Foundation, an environmental education programme to schools in and around Lahad Datu – the nearest town to Danum Valley.
Several of these new projects will be led by SEARRP’s newly-promoted Manager for Science Impacts – Melissa Payne, who’s been with us for the past two years. You’ll find a feature on Melissa in the newsletter.
Melissa, a Sabahan residing in Kota Kinabalu graduated from the University of Adelaide in South Australia with a Degree in Arts majoring in Geographical and Environmental Studies. Melissa has over 7 years of experience as a Sabah-based environmental consultant specialising in natural resources management, environmental planning and monitoring as well as community engagement. During this time she has been involved in the preparation of several conservation studies and action plans in Sabah including the Sabah Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2012-2022, State Water Activities Management Policy and Guideline Study, Study on the Establishment of Ecological Linkages Connection (ECOLINC) to the Kinabalu Park and Crocker Range Park and Kampung Tudan Tuaran Management Plan. Through this engagement, Melissa’s interest in natural resources and environmental management has grown and she believes that strengthening partnerships between local governance authorities, civil society groups and local communities is a great start to lasting, effective conservation initiatives.
Melissa joined SEARRP in February 2018 and has recently been promoted to our Science Impact Manager. Since starting at SEARRP, Melissa has been leading a facilitating role in capacity building and training in Ecosystem Services Assessment as well as Environmental Education and Outreach. She has been working closely with Dr Agnes Agama in exploring the potentials of OECMs in Malaysia and soon embarking on projects supported by Yayasan Hasanah and the National Geographic Society. Melissa is an incredible asset to the team, and all of us at SEARRP are so pleased to have her on board!
Inspiring a new generation of conservation champions in an era of environmental change
SEARRP, together with Swansea University and the Sabah Foundation, has recently received a grant from the National Geographic Society to deliver an exciting new environmental education project that will involve working with schools across Sabah.
The project will mentor a new generation of environmental champions in Sabah through participatory science and capacity building programmes that will focus on one of Borneo’s last remaining lowland rainforests – and the possible consequences of its loss. Much of the local knowledge of the biodiversity and natural history of the forest, and stories of its importance, resides with dedicated Sabahan research assistants and forest rangers who regularly work in and explore the forests of Sabah. All too frequently in Sabah, young people are disconnected from the natural environment and local knowledge of the forest. This project will help to address this connectivity gap by working together with the research assistants and rangers in building the skills and confidence to deliver environmental education programmes, using the lowland forests of eastern Sabah as a base. As a co-benefit, secondary school students and teachers will gain new knowledge of the biodiversity of Borneo’s most ecologically important, richest but threatened habitats – and the impacts of the disturbances and loss of forests as a consequence of land-use change.
An OECM (Other Effective area-based Conservation measure) is defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity as: “a geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long term outcomes for the in-situ conservation of biodiversity with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic, and other locally relevant values”.
Over the next two years, with funding from GEF-SGP Malaysia, SEARRP will collaborate with local partners and stakeholders to identify possible OECMs across Malaysia. This project aims to strengthen the in-situ conservation of biodiversity, while also helping achieve Malaysia’s commitments to Target 6 of the National Policy on Biological Diversity and to Aichi Biodiversity Target 11. We are working with local stakeholders to identify potential OECMs and explore how OECMs can be recognised alongside Protected Areas to provide a more complete representation of the conservation landscape in Malaysia and add important connectivity to Sabah’s existing Protected Areas networks.
The project began in October 2019 and recently completed a series of stakeholder workshops in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak to introduce the concept of OECMs and gauge interest in collaboration. SEARRP is now accepting submissions for case studies which stakeholders believe could be considered as OECMs across marine, coastal, freshwater and terrestrial environments.
Over the past two years, SEARRP has worked closely with the Tropical Biology Association (TBA), with funding and support from Yayasan Hasanah, in a pilot project that has assessed ecosystem services using the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) at sites across Malaysia. With the success of the pilot project, Yayasan Hasanah has confirmed funding for a larger, more ambitious project – expanding this capacity building programme into the ~5 million hectare Central Forest Spine (CFS), which covers close to 40% of the land area of mainland Peninsular Malaysia. READ MORE This project focussed on building capacity among local conservation practitioners, and trained participants how to identify, prioritise and assess ecosystem services in areas where they live and work. After two TESSA training courses, trainees carried out ecosystem services assessments in Pitas and Kinabatangan in Sabah and on the Ulu Muda catchment in Peninsular Malaysia.
As part of this new, three year project, SEARRP will partner with the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia to design and conduct ecosystem services assessments in critical ecological linkages across the CFS. In collaboration with the TBA, the project will build capacity among key stakeholders to enable the valuation of ecosystem services, identify conservation priorities and improve environmental management in this crucially important forest mosaic.
In a new partnership with the Indonesian-based plantation and trading company, Musim Mas, SEARRP and the University of Oxford have been commissioned to deliver a one-year research and knowledge exchange programme. This will generate vital new evidence for understanding how to conserve biodiversity in oil palm landscapes and provide Musim Mas with detailed information about the status of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas within their estates and the efficiency of their monitoring protocols. Working closely with the company’s staff, we will co-develop a practical, rapid, and easy-to-use HCV monitoring system.
This work, led by SEARRP’s Assistant Director Dr Jen Lucey, will provide the building blocks for future research to test and develop management strategies for biodiversity conservation in oil palm plantations.
Dr Jen Lucey (University of Oxford and SEARRP’s Assistant Director for Knowledge Exchange) is launching a new project to develop a simple, easy-to-use forest monitoring tool into a smartphone application.
As tropical forests are increasingly threatened, measures to protect, manage and restore the remaining areas increasingly involve diverse forest stewards, from companies, to NGOs and local communities, as well as government. Assessing and monitoring forest quality is essential for ensuring these areas are managed properly, that further degradation is prevented and recovery is enhanced, but existing methods for conducting monitoring are usually time consuming, expensive and/or require high levels of expertise.
The FIA concept was initially developed by the High Conservation Value Resource Network and has been adapted for SE Asian lowland dipterocarp forest in collaboration with SEARRP and a number of our partners including the plantation company Wilmar and the Universities of York and Oxford.
By developing the FIA as a smartphone application, the aim is to increase access, usability, data collation and interpretation – particularly through the use of built-in training and forest management advice.
To ensure the application is fit for purpose, with user needs at the heart of its development, Jen led a two-day launch workshop at the SEARRP office in Kota Kinabalu on 16-17th January 2020. This workshop gathered potential users and stakeholders in forest management and monitoring, including companies, NGOs and government who were introduced to a beta version of the smartphone app and gave useful feedback that will influence the development of this tool.
The project is funded by the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund.
SEARRP has recently reviewed and strengthened our Safeguarding Policies to ensure the health and safety of all of our partners.
Through a robust safeguarding framework we aim to ensure that everyone is treated professionally and respectfully. Our approach allows SEARRP staff and anyone working with or visiting our programme to raise any safety or duty-of-care concerns – with the assurance that these will be taken seriously and acted upon. We operate a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind, a no-retaliation policy on complaints, a broader employee code of conduct, cultural guidance for visiting scientists and students and robust complaints procedure. These policies and procedures are embedded through regular training to enhance knowledge and understanding among our staff and others involved with our programme, irrespective of their position or seniority.
We committed to maintaining the highest standards of safeguarding and regularly monitor guidance from the UK and Malaysian Governments, the UK Charity Commission and other recognised organisations with the aim of benchmark our standards against sector best-practice.
SEnSOR had the opportunity to showcase their work at a booth at the 17th annual Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil in Bangkok Thailand November 3-6th, 2019. SEnSOR programme manager Dr Jen Lucey, and biodiversity researchers, Dr Sarah Scriven and Susannah Fleiss were in attendance to answer questions about the ongoing programme and the most recent work including interesting new publications on Testing the benefits of conservation set‐asides for improved habitat connectivity and Outcomes of RSPO certification for independent smallholders.
During the conference, Dr Lucey gave a talk on her research into the possible unintended impacts, both positive and negative, of the RSPO Certification Standard on Biodiversity and Natural Habitats. Her talk emphasised that although very little research has been conducted on the unintended impacts of RSPO, it is vital to identify and measure these effects to make sure the certification standard is having net positive outcomes. This study will help to identify the top priorities for future research and policy action.
Attending international conferences to show SEnSOR’s work is an essential aspect of the programme, as the research is aimed to be highly applied and policy-relevant to a variety of stakeholders with the aim of contributing to sustainability.