Riparian forest under threat

  • Community
  • Saturday, 08 Apr 2017

Kinabatangan floodplain has undergone sustantial change to its land cover.

KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists plan to map areas along Sabah’s longest river, Kinabatangan, that have lost stretches of its riparian reserves to encroaching plantations.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said that they were planning to map the stretches of the Kinabatangan that had no riparian forest left and send this information to the Sabah Drainage and Irrigation Department, Land and Survey Department, Agriculture and Environmental Protection Departments for action to be taken.

“The lowland floodplain surrounding Kinabatangan River has undergone substantial land-cover transformation from forest to oil palm plantations and similar agri-based businesses.

“Our work suggests that continued conservation of floodplain forest will mitigate loss of agricultural lands, and that preservation of riparian reserves will contribute to maintenance of river banks,” he said.

Dr Goossens said the Kinabatangan River offered an important opportunity to document and assess the relationship between tropical floodplain forest and riverbank erosion.

He said this followed a new scientific paper published in Geology on research carried out at Sabah Wildlife Department’s and Cardiff University’s Danau Girang Field Centre that examined the changes the river meandering through tropical deforestation.

This paper was a collaboration between Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff School of Biosciences and Danau Girang Field Centre.

Tropical forests were the only forest with biome (plant and animal species) to have experienced increased rates of forest loss during the past decade because of global demands for food and biofuels, said Alex Horton, a PhD student at Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and leader of the study.

“Our research investigated the implications of such extensive forest clearing on the dynamics of tropical river systems, particularly how rapidly floodplains erode after deforestation.

“We have documented rates of deforestation and corresponding average annual rates of riverbank erosion along Sabah’s Kinabatangan River.

“We estimated that deforestation removed over half of the river’s floodplain forest and up to 30% of its riparian cover, which increased rates of riverbank erosion by over 23% within our study reaches,” he said, adding that the study highlighted the importance of riverbank stability and the evolution of meandering rivers.

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