Research opportunties

DSC03365The NRRN encourages anyone who is interested in doing research on the biodiversity, conservation and valuation of tropical rainforests to come up with own research projects/proposals to be conducted at the Maliau Basin Conservation Area and surrounding areas – the NRRN welcomes all kinds of projects which support our overall mission and objectives.

If an applicant wishes to conduct research at the Maliau Basin Conservation Area but does not have own research project the NRRN will gladly assist by suggesting certain research topics as well as developing a specific project in close discussion with the applicant – see below for some research topics.

The NRRN also welcomes any person(s) who is interested in doing an internship or related activities at Maliau Basin Conservation Area or surrounding areas to contact the Secretariat to hear more about what options exist. For people who are interested in volunteering please contact Nature Tours under Forest of The World at http://naturetours.verdensskove.org/

More specifically, research projects can contribute, but not be limited, to understanding of the following topics:

IMG_1469 1Rainforest rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation

Earth system science studies suggest that the world is nearing the threshold rate of biodiversity loss identified as a “safe operating space for humanity”. The protection and rehabilitation of areas like the Maliau Basin, home to large numbers of endemic species, is crucial to the global effort to hold back a sixth mass extinction. Not only the pristine forest, but even the once-or twice-logged forest areas can have high species richness, which could be increased with appropriate restoration.

Loss of tropical forest changes patterns of evaporation and cloud formation and thereby air pressure changes that sucks humid air from the oceans to the interior of land areas. Species loss in fragmented and degraded forests constrains plant pollination and seed dispersal, undermining natural processes that might lead to regeneration.

Situated in a part of Borneo that has been under continuous rainforest canopy for tens of millions of years, apparently never inhabited by humans, the Maliau Basin offers an opportunity to study a pristine and highly biodiverse forest environment, which has been used to provide baseline data on pristine tropical forest ecosystems.

In addition, significant geophysical heterogeneity inside and outside the area (nutrient-poor sandstones, limestones and ultramafic soils, nutrient-rich sediments, and elevational gradients) will allow multifaceted analysis of factors that may constrain processes of forest regeneration, which can complement nearby research on landscape fragmentation and species abundance undertaken by the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project. Knowledge developed from this research can be used to inform efforts to rehabilitate and restore tropical rainforest areas elsewhere in order to re-establish provision of ecosystem services.

DSC03519Development of payments for environmental services (PES)

The Maliau Basin provides a variety of opportunities for integrated conservation and development programs. The area boasts numerous species of medicinal plants and opportunities for ecotourism for biodiversity as well as natural beauty, particularly if current efforts to list the area as a World Heritage Site are successful. For such opportunities to come to fruition, however, emerging challenges of illegal logging and land conversion within the reserve and the surrounding area must be addressed.

The Maliau Basin is home to a variety of promising models that could be leveraged to address these challenges. The INFAPRO Project, supported by Yayasan Sabah and Face the Future, for example, covers 25.000 ha of severely logged-over forest. In 2007, the project was converted to a Verified Carbon Standard project, seeking verified emissions reductions salable on voluntary markets (Face the Future, 2011).

With a vibrant private sector Malaysia is an excellent site for studying ways to step-up the engagement of firms in Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) projects. Firms could be an untapped source of innovation, crucial to sustainability. Added to this, there exists a bourgeoning field of research studying how mobile technologies can support community monitoring for and engagement in PES, taking advantage of Malaysia’s high availability of mobile technology.

Developing a robust monitoring capability, coupled with effective mechanisms to engage firms can provide an opportunity to acquire actionable knowledge supporting PES development to facilitate biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation in the project site and more broadly. The project studies a critical, under-researched area of sustainable development, supporting broader development initiatives, by providing actionable knowledge on an untapped source of innovation for forestry management in the Maliau Basin and PES more broadly.