| Danial Norjidi |
UNIVERSITI Brunei Darussalam (UBD) yesterday held a seminar on Biomass Dynamics of Tropical Forests through on-the-ground observations.
Held at the UBD Faculty of Science, the seminar was led by Dr Lan Qie from the University of Leeds’ School of Geography in the United Kingdom.
The talk gave an overview of results from on-the-ground tropical forest observations in South America and Africa, and an introduction to the long-term plot monitoring work in Southeast Asia as part of the ‘Tropical Forests in the Changing Earth System’ (T-FORCES) project.
This project is a pan-tropical collaborative research network led by the University of Leeds in Southeast Asia, for which priority has been given to Borneo – the largest island in the Sundanic biogeographical subregion – where an ongoing systematic recensus has included over 50 long-term plots in Brunei, Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan, bringing data up-to-date for some of the oldest plots in the region.
One of the project’s main aims is to develop a sustainable, collaborative, long-term forest plot network in the region as part of the Pan-Tropical Observatory at Forest Function.
As it was explained at the seminar, preliminary analysis has indicated an overall increase of carbon stock in primary/old growth lowland rainforests in northern Borneo, consistent with evidence from South America and Africa.
Newly collected data on plots in Brunei, particularly those monitored since the early 1990s, will shed more light on the general trend of biomass change in some of Borneo’s best protected forests.
Dr Lan Qie, who comes from an interdisciplinary background – a BSc in Electronic Engineering, a MSc in Bioengineering and a PhD in Ecology – responded to a number of questions from the attendees at the end of the seminar.
Speaking to the Bulletin, Dr Lan Qie shared, “For Southeast Asia – with some caution because we have a small data set – we do notice a similar trend of possible carbon increase in the mature forests over the past two to three decades, but the underlying driver of this is also a climate effect of some other more localised factors remains to be answered.”
She went on to highlight that “there is some hope that our tropical forests of the world are behaving like a buffer to take up carbon out of the atmosphere, but that trend may stop or slow down at some point due to things we still don’t understand so well.”
With regards to carbon uptake, she affirmed that tropical forests are by far the most dominant when compared to different types of ecosystems and forests.
“Tropical forests are the most carbon dense and extremely productive,” she said.
Speaking on whether preservation of tropical forests is in countries’ best interests, Dr Lan Qie said, “As we all know, governments across this region have been trying to work together to have more effective conservation efforts in general. Of course there is a lot of conflict of interests between development and conservation.”
She also went on to add, “I think I would like to say that I do hope research efforts in this region have more support from governments and the general public so that fundamental research such as this will see more funding input because this is really resource-intensive research on-the-ground and a lot of hard work.”