CAMBRIDGE (United Kingdom): The Sabah Forestry Department has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), launching a landmark project that will harness world-class science to support the Sabah State Government’s target of increasing protected area coverage to 30% of Sabah’s land area by 2025.
More than 60 scientists from leading universities in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Malaysia witnessed the MoU signing held at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s David Attenborough Building.
Speaking at the opening of this strategic meeting on the science of tropical rainforest research, Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan emphasized how forest conservation is a major priority for the State Government of Sabah.
“Over the past 20 years, we have worked to increase the extent of protected forests in Sabah by a factor of 5 to almost 1.9 million hectares today. This is equivalent to 26% of the State’s land area, surpassing even the IUCN and CBD’s Aichi targets” he said.
“I am pleased to confirm that the Sabah Government is committed to increasing the extent of protected forests from the current 26% to 30% of land area by 2025. This will involve the protection of an additional c. 1 million acres of rainforest in Sabah.
“The locations of these new protected areas have yet to be identified. This is the work that lies ahead of us,” he added.
The MoU marks the launch of a landmark science project supported by the Rainforest Trust and based on a strategic partnership between the Sabah Forestry Department, SEARRP, the Carnegie Institution for Science, PACOS Trust and BC Initiative.
Leading the coordination of this project, Dr Glen Reynolds, Director of SEARRP, explained that “between now and 2020, the project will generate maps of forest carbon, biodiversity and functional composition that will be integrated with archived and new field observations including narrow-range endemic trees, and state-of-the-art meta-population models that identify critical habitat connections for range-shifting species.”
The project will also consider other species, including those that provide important ecosystem services such as pollination and dispersal to ensure the efficacy of forest protection over time, especially resilience to climate change.
“Integrating the livelihood requirements of forest-dependent communities will be a vital consideration in the selection of new protected areas. Led by our partners PACOS Trust and BC Initiative, the project will consult with local communities and stakeholders to generate cost-benefit options and reach consensus on an optimal scenario for rainforest protection,” Dr Reynolds added.