The South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) was established by the Royal Society and is dedicated to researching and conserving Asia’s tropical ecosystems. While in Malaysia earlier this year I was given the opportunity to be shown around one of their conservation projects, the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment, by the director of SEARRP, Glen Reynolds. I was overwhelmed by the inspirational work that SEARRP carry out, which focuses on three main areas: habitat fragmentation, small patches of forest within plantations, and the restoration of degraded forests. The major conservation threat in South East Asia has recently shifted from timber harvesting to land use change e.g. conversion to oil palm plantations, as timber stocks have been exhausted. Currently there is still twice as much forest as there is oil palm in Sabah however this balance is slowly tipping, and if land use change is not carried out sustainably it can have disastrous effects on rainforest biodiversity.
I visited a nursery which SEARRP set up to support their enrichment planting operation, which helps to regenerate degraded rainforest by planting trees and therefore increasing the capacity for carbon dioxide sequestration. The nursery contains hundreds of thousands of seedlings from over 30 different dipterocarp species. It is of particular importance in South East Asian forests to keep seedlings in nurseries for enrichment planting, as dipterocarp seeds can only be collected once or twice a decade following hard to predict mast fruiting events.