Laying the Foundation for Sustainable Landscape Management of Malaysia’s Biodiverse Central Forest Spine

Jun 7, 2017

trefoil horseshoe bat

Just like the human backbone that gives our body form and function, the Central Forest Spine (CFS) forms the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia by linking forest complexes with a network of ecological corridors creating a connected conservation area.

The CFS is an important water source for at least 90% of the population. It also harbours the remaining populations of Malayan tigers amongst other wildlife in its forests and is home to a majority of the indigenous communities – Orang Asli.

The Improving Connectivity of the Central Forest Spine Landscape (IC-CFS) project supported by UNDP with GEF grant financing focuses on three priority landscapes in the states of Perak, Pahang and Johor which have a combined ecological corridor area of approximately 208,358 ha.

Currently, the Central Forest Spine is fragmented due to rapid development for residential and agricultural purposes that are not only detrimental to wildlife survival but are also impacting its rich fauna, flora and ecosystems. Efforts are being made to link these disjointed forests through various means, such as reforestation, land gazettement and building of wildlife crossings.

The intent of the project is to ensure sustainable landscape management is adopted in the 3 forest complexes namely Belum-Temenggor, Taman Negara and Endau-Rompin that are to be replicated by the other states later. There are 3 elements in sustainable landscape management i.e. securing wildlife habitats, conserving biodiversity and carbon stocks and lastly, maintaining the continuous flow of multiple ecosystem services.

Sustainable landscape management also includes the Orang Asli communities living in or adjacent to the forest complexes. The project is in the process of engaging them to find suitable solutions in elevating their household income and empowering their womenfolk for sustainable livelihood; the latter being in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No.5 on gender equality.

At the same time, work has started on the ground at the survey sites to assess the biodiversity intactness in the 3 landscapes as well as the wildlife species roaming the forest complexes.

Camera traps have been fixed at selected areas in the prioritised forest complexes. The pictures of the animals caught by the camera traps will be analysed for understanding the travel patterns of the animals and gauging the types of species roaming the areas. Information retrieved from here will be used to determine the need for animal crossings (either culverts, hanging ropes or similar to our highways; green bridges known as viaducts) to enable the animals to travel from one fragmented forest complex to the next for their survival and to also lessen human wildlife conflicts.

Other than the camera traps, fieldwork at the site in Johor has started where the findings will help in determining the richness and intactness of the biodiversity in the Johor Elephant Sanctuary area.

Some of the small mammals that makeup the diversity in the study site are the trefoil horseshoe bat and three striped ground squirrel.

These are preliminary work that will intensify as the project progresses where the information gathered from here is crucial in the development of a site-specific sustainable landscape management plan that will finally expand to the whole Central Forest Spine landscape.

Photos from IC-CFS Project.

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