Thursday, August 27, 2015

Heart of Borneo Corridor Initiative: A Gift to the World

The undisturbed ecosystem within the Peat Swamp Forest in the Belait District. – PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX COBB, SMART UNDER BRUNEI HOB PROJECT


Photos top, above and below show species of animals found within the Peat Swamp Forest by the project team led by Jonathan Davies and Zuraidah Abd Kamis during a joint Brunei HoB Project (BSP and WI)


Heart of Borneo Corridor Initiative: A gift to the world
Posted date: August 23, 2015
| Mahmud Yussof, CEO of Heart of Borneo Centre & 
Head of Biodiversity Research and Innovation Centre |

DESPITE the world’s third largest island being situated between the Indo-Pacific Basin and Malaysia, evidently, Borneo Island still holds the world’s richest biodiversity hotspot. Its tropical rainforest – straddles from north to south in what is known as the Heart of Borneo (HoB) area – is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest ecosystem, with its evolution estimated to have started as early as 130 million years ago.

According to WWF Malaysia President Dato Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin (PhD), a prominent nature lover and ecotourism key player in Sabah, unlike the Amazon in South America, Borneo Island did not experience the continental drift. Hence, the Bornean tropical rainforest ecosystem is the most ancient ecosystem in the world.

Based on Tengku’s comparison study and experience, Borneo Island is the best biodiversity hotspot in the world. Furthermore, according to the National Geography, an area of 10 square kilometres in Borneo Island has more biodiversity content than a combination of the whole Europe and North America.

According to Tengku, in Borneo Island we can find the highest diversity of orchid and tree species and other associated flora and fauna, a majority of which are endemic to this island. Ten per cent of the world’s orchid can be found on the island of Borneo. On another note, the Bornean tropical rainforest assembles highly diverse wild fruit orchards for the Bornean people.The current no-logging policy for these protected and conserved areas within the designated Brunei HoB area (especially the peat swamp forests) is a noble laureate class approach by the political leadership. It was enforced in 2014.

In view of this, the people of Brunei are blessed with a vast area of pristine tropical rainforest – considered the most ancient biological landscape in the world – as a prime ecotourism destination for the country, serving as a highly potential industry to support national economic diversifications. This tropical rainforest ecosystem can be found in the interiors of Brunei, with a majority turned into reserved forest areas. There is also the peat swamp forest on the state land of Belait District.

Under the purview of the Heart of Borneo Initiative, these areas have been recognised to play an important role not only as a continuous terrestrial ecological route, but also in providing nutrients for the marine coral reef within the Marine Protection Area (MPA) that lies within the Indo-Pacific Global Centre of Coral Diversity also known as the Amazon of the sea.

The HoB Corridor Initiative project proposed by Brunei as the first trilateral efforts will ensure the connectivity of these most ancient forest ecosystems from Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan to serve the core richest biodiversity area representing the Bornean biodiversity. More importantly, the biological strip will provide Bornean citizens a living pharmacy and herbals worth billions of dollars through biotechnology industry and traditional herbal practices as well as a living food supermarket for the rich culture forest communities.

As the core area of the world’s richest biodiversity, the biological corridor is the iconic landmass for Borneo Island that will attract both local and international researchers. The potential of new discoveries is very high for the benefit of the whole Borneo Island community. The Research and Development information from this strip of biological corridor will be the scientific component of ecotourism activities in Borneo within the HoB package ecotourism that will also enhance the people’s appreciation for nature.

The establishment of the HoB Corridor Initiative was further discussed in the 9th HoB Trilateral Meeting on August 11-12 2015 in Sandakan, Sabah. The most notable lessons learnt during the course of the meeting is that Sabah is making tremendous effort in forest protection under the HoB management regime and undertaking the best collective efforts in promoting its ecotourism industry.

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