UGB 224E Natural Wonders of the World Term paper The Tropical Rainforest of Malaysia – Sarawak Introduction As we all know that deforestation sharply accelerated in these decades, more and more forests disappeared. Environmentally, it causes global warming, soil erosion, decline in biodiversity, degraded ecosystem and water- cycle.  Economically and ethically, the deforestation caused by logging and commercial agriculture by the developed countries, like the U. S. The people in developing countries lose their long term profits when the rainforests disappear.
2] In our opinion, it is unfair for the developing countries to lose their long-term income and the biodiversity of the forests in order to satisfy the needs and the high living quality for people in developed countries. Obviously, it is urgent for us to slow down the mushrooming deforestation because of its serious damages in environment, economy and so on. Therefore, we would like to look into deforestation and take the tropical rainforest of Sarawak in Malaysia as our case study for the following reasons.
Firstly, the tropical rainforest of Sarawak has precious primary forest cover in the world. Secondly, Malaysia’s rates of deforestation are the highest in Asia, so it is worth to have a research on it.  Characteristics of Tropical Rainforests Tropical rainforests mostly locate among 10 degrees north or south of the equator. The average annual rainfall is mostly over 2,000 ml and the average temperature is between 25 °C -30 °C. Temperature difference is small. They are homes for many animals and plants on the earth. 0% of the world’s species are found in tropical rainforests. There are lots of plants with different species and five layers (the ground layer, the shrub layer, the understorey layer, the canopy layer and the emergent layer).
The Importance of the Tropical Rainforest Economically, lots of grown crops and spices came from tropical rainforest originally. They are still mostly grown on plantations where formerly primary forests were. These crops include coco, mangoes, papaya and macadamia etc.Biologically and environmentally, tropical rainforests plays significant role in maintaining the stability of eco-system, biological diversity, modulating precipitation, infiltration and flooding as well as protecting the soil. They control greenhouse gases emission and global warming. Moreover, tropical rainforests are named “the world’s largest pharmacy” as large amount of natural medicines is discovered in rainforests, like cocaine etc. For the inhabitants, the food and the space of tropical rainforests support their basic needs of life.
Problem facing Tropical Rainforests The deforestation is accelerated and serious. The causes of deforestation are mostly human activities, for example, logging for commercial agriculture, exporting of wood, building infrastructure. As mentioned above, deforestation degrades the stability of eco-system and reduces the biodiversity as some species may be extinct. It also accelerates global warming. The loss of long- term income of inhabitants may is unfair. Case study — the Tropical Rainforests of Sarawak Background informationIt locates on the north-west of Borneo in Malaysia and is between latitude 0° 50’N and 5°N. The total land area of Sarawak is 124,450 km? and 80% of it is covered by tropical rainforest. The population of Sarawak is 2,357,500.
For the weather, as it is near to equator and South China Sea, is hot with small seasonal variance in temperature and large amount of rainfall. It is affected by oceanic climate. Its annual average temperature is 25 °C -30 °C while annual rainfall is about 4000 mm. For the details of biodiversity, there are lowland, highland rainforests and primary rainforest. 6] With high and stable temperature and high rainfall, Sarawak has an ideal climate for flora and fauna to flourish, thus has the highest per unit area in the world. Rainforests in Sarawak has rich biodiversity. There are about 185 species of mammals, 530 species of birds, 166 species of snakes, 104 of lizards, 113 of amphibians.
 Current Situation on Deforestation in Sarawak Malaysia is the largest exporter of tropical wood in the world, accounting for 70 percent of the world’s supply of raw-logs. Sabah and Sarawak, the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, occupy some of the oldest and the most diverse rain forest in the world.Increasing wood is logged in Sarawak. Malaysia’s deforestation rate has the highest rate among the Asian country, According to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Malaysia’s annual deforestation rate increased almost 86 percent between the 1990-2000 period and 2000-2005. It is estimated that Malaysia lost an average of 140,200 hectares—0.
65 percent of its forest area—per year since 2000. For comparison, the Southeast Asian country lost an average of 78,500 hectares, or 0. 35 percent of its forests, annually during the 1990s.
More and more primary forest is logged. Until 1945, logging in Sarawak was confined to the swamp forests along the coast. The development of chainsaws, skidders, bulldozers and trucks made the forest more accessible, and opened up the interior to loggers. The primary rainforest is still a riddle to people nowadays; it is estimate that only one percent of the rainforest plants have been tested for medicine, whereas around 25% of modern medicine was made from rainforest plants. Someone has said before, we may know Mars, Moon even more than these relatively small piece of land.The primary forest is also famous for its biodiversity, we know that only ten hectare of land in the rainforest contains more species than the whole Canada.
Besides, Penan, who are said to be live in the forest for 40,000 or even longer, has a valuable culture. It is very essential to study their culture, as they have a wealth of knowledge of medicinal plants unknown to modern science. Although these primary or secondary forests provided such a wonderful resource to us, according to figure from WESTERN CANADA WILDERNESS COMMITTEE, of the 9,500 Penan in Sarawak today, about 9,000 have been relocated into government resettlement camps.
And all intact primary rainforests will be logged in Sarawak by the year 2000.  It is really a good negative example telling us why we need to treasure what we are having now and the importance to reserve natural environment. Reasons for Deforestation Government’s strong promotion In Malaysia, the federal and state governments are nearly independent; most of the profits from the oil industry will go to the federal government, while most of the profits from timber go to the state government.No matter the production of palm oil or exportation of timbers, both are relied on deforesting. Especially for the state government, the corruption is serious, logging is greatly encouraged. Agricultural purpose, bio-fuel and shifting cultivation Due to the increasing focus on clean energy recently, Malaysia and Indonesia and other tropical countries started to replace their rainforest land to plant palm oil. In 2008, Malaysia produced 17. 7 million tons of palm oil on 4.
5 million hectares of land; she is the second largest producer and the largest exporter of palm oil in the world.It is estimated that 47 percent of oil palm agriculture between 1990 and 2002 involved rainforest removal. Shifting cultivation, it has been used long ago by the tribes living in tropical rainforest. Initially it is ok as they will shift to other places when the land loses fertility and the tribes are usually consisted of small population. However, due to the advances of medicine, people tend to live longer than before and the same land is served for more population, it is more difficult for a forest to recover.
Industrial useThe over-logged land usually become wasteland and its competitive land price and relatively large area and abundance resources attract foreign investors come to build factories for manufacturing or more commonly, mining centre such as tin. Malaysia is one of the world’s important tin producers. Its mining industry account for almost 7% to the country’s GDP.
Malaysia is also an important producer of copper, bauxite, gold and ilmenite.  Urbanization Advance of a city in Malaysia required a lot of logs, therefore, require deforestation of tropical rainforest.And also increasing population encourages the expansion of land by clearing of forest. On the other hand, In order to increase the population of cheap labor, huge areas in the interior of Sarawak have opened up, exposing more indigenous tribes to the outside world. A large proportion of the rural population has been drawn into the labor market. Impact of Deforestation on Environment and Ecosystem Rainforest as an ecosystem Ecosystem is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
As a structural and functional unit of the biosphere, it involves the interplay of biological physical and involving the interplay of biological, physical and chemical processes.  Rainforests as an ecosystem involving diversity of plants and animals is characterized by high temperature and heavy rainfall. And as an ecological unit, tight nutrient cycle is formed in the humid forest. Due to the high rainfall, the soils is poor in nutrient resulted by the leaching of soluble nutrients. The canopy becomes the storage of most nutrients.
The soil in tropic forest is often called “Oxisols” with low cation nutrients and good physical properties.Then the Oxisol relies on the annually replenished with fallen leaves and fertile silt to keep good physical property in order to support the efficient nutrient cycle. In this humid condition, annual moistening of rainfall and leaves help the Oxic horizon (Fe & Al oxides) under the top-soil remains soft in tropic forest. It is essential to keep the Oxic horizon soft and moist in order to keep the nutrient cycling.
Because, once explored in air, the Oxic horizon will lose water and become the laterite due to the rich of Fe in this horizon. It is also important to protect the vegetation cover above the ground.On one side, it keeps the humid condition by the canopy; on the other side, as lack of nutrients in the soil, most nutrients are stored in the vegetation coverage. And the habitat provided by the vegetation cover give the living space and condition for animals and saprophyte which is the active participator in the nutrient cycling by the way of deposition of organic mass matter. The whole ecosystem is functioning very well without disruption, but also very fragile due to the poor soil and tight independent relationship among different organism.All in all, soil, humid condition with high rainfall and vegetation cover are the most important element in comprising the Tropic forest ecosystem through the way of building the sight nutrient cycling.
And the moistening of the soil and the humid condition depends a lot on the vegetation cover. Rampant logging In these two areas, the development of timbering industry brings rampant logging of forest’s vegetation cover which leads to the damage of this ecological unit. Besides, the industry leads to the construction of infrastructures, such as roads, telecommunications and also dams.The clearance of the forest and the disruption of periodic flooding have caused serious damage to the soil which the damage is irreversible.
? Irreversible damage to the soil 1) Disruption of periodic flooding The disruption of periodic flooding cut off the replenished of and fertile silt due to the roads and dam construction. These constructions disrupt the river runoff, especially the dam construction. Therefore, the flooding can not reach the soil it uses to moisten which leads to the change of the physical property of the soil. 2) Clearance of forest coverBeside the disruption of periodical flooding has lead to the disruption of continuous moistening of the soil, the clearance of forest coverage also aggravates this problem.
Without forest cover, earth evaporation has been getting stronger under the high temperature and strong sunshine without the covering shadow of canopy. The soil is easily to lose the water. And also the reduction of fallen leaves on the ground, the soil loses the organic mass maters to keep the physical property of aeration. Humid air is not able to circulate in the soil.This all lead to the low productivity of the soil. It is more dangerous to the tropical forest ecosystem if the Oxic horizon under the topsoil change to laterite.
The clearance of the forest cover by rampant logging and infrastructure construction can easily cause the erosion and removal of the topsoil which is above the Oxic horizon. The Oxic horizon is explored to air, through the chemical reaction of oxidation of Fe ion and AL ion; it hardens into irreversible form of laterite, which is the brick-hard material. The earth thus loses the productivity and hard to get recovery. Draught The clearance of the cover and disruption of periodical flooding also causes the drought of the tropical forest ecosystem. The change of the soil structure and the loss of canopy which is the two main spaces in storing water and contribute to the humid are condition inside the forest. Loss of these two storages of water, the high temperature and strong sun light can speed up the evaporation and transpiration of water and the decrease of raindrop. This can cause serious draught in this area.
? Losing biodiversityThe clearance of the forest coverage causes the loss of space under the emergent layer which provide space and safety habitat for variety creatures. In addition, it also causes the loss of food supply. These have lead to the loss of biodiversity. To maintain ecosystem stability, it is essential to protect the vegetative cover. But the rampant logging and infrastructure brings the clearance of the forest cover which leads to the loss of habitat for creatures, losing of water storage and irreversible damage to the soil. Once the laterite is formed, the forest has little chance to get recovery which means the whole ecosystem will be lost. Global warming But the impact is not just about the ecosystem itself, the rampant logging also contribute to the global warming problems. The forest and the soil are two important carbons sink on the earth.
The greenhouse gas will increase due to the loss of green pants and their photosynthesis. The soil’s physical and chemical change damages the function of storage carbon and other greenhouse gas. And nowadays, Oil palm plantation becomes the trend in tropical forests in these two places. But is has been proved the low effect on carbon store. Low effect means more greenhouse gases go into the air.
So far, we have not found a replacement which has the same function on the earth, and the ecosystem of tropic forest is productive but fragile. Therefore, to balance the relationship between development of local society and the protection of tropic forest system is always needed to bear in mind, though it is difficult to do rather than saying. Impact of Deforestation on Economy How we perceive the economic influences of deforestation depends very much on the time horizon considered. As mentioned above, both the state and federal government eagerly promote deforestation in Sarawak in exchange for economic benefits.Actually, what they are only concerned for, are possibly short-term and temporary benefits. We are going to illustrate the major ones in the following part. The abundant mineral resources of tropical rainforest in Sarawak have made Malaysia an important mining centre in the world, as mentioned before.
Investments from multinational mining companies help driving rural development. In 2010, Aluminum Corporation of China is planning to build a US$1 billion aluminum plant in Sarawak, make use of local rich resources to improve the region’s development. 15] Roads will be built to link up neighboring regions for the sake of delivering raw minerals and finished output. This improvement in transportation network encourages regional economic development in rural areas where poverty prevails. Also, rainforests in Malaysia are cleared for oil palm plantation. This may create jobs for local residents by hiring them as plantation workers. For nationwide short-term economic influences, deforestation for oil plant growing demonstrates a typical one.
Export of palm oil earned foreign currencies of US $ 14. 8 billion in 2009 while the country had US $ 48 billion external debt in the year. 16] It implies that the export value of palm oil can repay one-third of external debt. However, long-term economic influences are totally unfavorable.
Without the protection from vegetation, soil is highly exposed to erosion. Nutrients in soil will deplete and thus create hardship for crops. Productivity of the land will diminish if deforestation carries on rapidly. This leads to extremely low farm output. Agriculture supports the living of the state’s population as 32% of total land area in Sarawak has been identified as suitable agricultural land.
17] Once rainforests in Sarawak were gone, a lot of farms and cattle ranches will be abandoned after several years since the poorly nutrient soil becomes exhausted.  Also, income from exportation of timber will eventually dry up. Other interdependent sectors in the region, such as banks, will suffer from the deteriorating economy since the need for credit and loans falls sharply. Towns in the Amazon in the midst of deforestation are demonstrating the above side effects of deforestation to local economy. Apart from that, deforestation provides sufficient spaces for massive plantation of commercial crops.
This eventually reduces the world price of crops, which ensures the profit of international conglomerates by charging competitive prices. According to ARAB, a Malaysian-based research and consulting institution, palm oil prices are generally lower than that of soybean oil, which serves as the price leader for trade in vegetable oil. Nevertheless, dropping prices harm local producers indeed.
They have suffered from such strategies before, as in the cases of coffee, cocoa, bananas, sugar cane and many other crops. All in all, dropping prices exploits local growers and ruin their livelihood.This is the indirect economic influence of deforestation we often overlook. Impact of Deforestation on Ethnic Groups Nowadays, there are still more than ten ethnic groups living in the Sarawak state.
Deforestation poses threat to their traditional lifestyle and culture. They survive by making uses of natural resources found in tropical rainforests. For example, plants that yield glue to trap birds, twine for baskets, leaves for shelter and sandpaper, wood to make blowpipes. These natural resources are now no longer sustainable under rapid deforestation.
Take the Penan as an example, they are suffering from the loss of many sago palms that form stable carbohydrate of their diet and plants used for traditional herbal medicine. The logging operation leads to pollution of water catchment areas.  Kelabits living in Sarawak are also facing the same problem. The jar burial sites associate with highland archaeology are under the threat of deforestation. This speeds up the cease of traditional funerary celebration, which represented an important affair in their lives as well as respect for ancestors. SolutionsWhen the primary rainforests are gone, the initial ecosystem would be badly affected. The precious species would be lost and the global climate would be degraded. The alarming deforestation rate urges us, who are part of the Earth, to do something to save the valuable tropical rainforests that are indispensable in the global biosphere.
Then, what have the Malaysian government done to preserve the natural rainforests in Sarawak? ? Main Concept: Sustainable Development The practice of sustainable development is the major idea to preserve natural rainforests while concerning about the economic affairs.Sustainable development refers to “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987) Most of the solutions launched by the government are under this concept with a view to balancing the interests of different parties. Setting up National Parks and Other Protected Areas In Sarawak, a number of national parks and wildlife protected regions are established to safeguard this remaining productive ecosystem. There are 18 national parks, 4 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 nature reserves in the region which covers a total area of 512, 387. 47 ha. 23] The Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation unit is responsible for the management of these protected areas. These protected areas serve mainly two purposes which are protection and education. On one hand, it could protect the natural heritage sites for preserving valuable species and wildlife.
With the compliance of various legislations, such as National Parks Ordinance (1962), Wild Life Protection Ordinance (1998) and National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance (1998), abundant amount of biodiversity is protected in the legislated protected areas. Some of them are even uniquely found in Sarawak and Borneo.The protection of biodiversity is also crucial for scientific research and further conservation works. Meanwhile, the national parks are also one of the means to promote public awareness of protecting tropical rainforests. 15 protected areas are open for public in order to manifest the valuable rainforest ecosystem as well as a wide biodiversity. Activities related to forest conservation and biodiversity preservation are also held in the national parks, such as education tours. It brings to the next solution of protecting the rainforest – introduction of ecotourism.
Introduction of ecotourism What is Ecotourism? It is an enlightening, participatory travel experience to environments, both natural and cultural, that ensures the sustainable use, at an appropriate level, of environmental resources and, whilst producing viable economic opportunities for the tourism industry and host communities, makes the use of these resources through conservation beneficial to all tourism role players. ” (Centre for Ecotourism) It is a mix of ecological conservation, cultural appreciation and economic development. The idea of ecotourism is emerging in some of the national parks in Sarawak, for example, Bako, Niah and Similajau National Parks.This practice could minimize the adverse impacts brought by traditional tourism.
At the same time, it could help boost the local economy with the revenue brought from the tourism sector. It is one of the significant examples of sustainable development. Education The Forest Department of Sarawak launches a series of education programme, promoting the importance of rainforest conservation in Sarawak.
The major targets are students in schools and rural communities. Through the formal education programme, students could understand more about rainforests and their individual responsibility to conserve the natural environment.The programmes targeted at local communities aim at alleviating the conflicts and misunderstanding between the forest protectionists and them. They are taught to earn money from another ways besides logging. Regional and international cooperation Deforestation does not exist in Sarawak solely, but in other countries as well, including Indonesia, Congo and Brazil etc. The Malaysian government has highlighted the cooperation with other countries and international organizations in the context of environmental conservation.
Two ASEAN projects concerned with forestry-related issues are conducted in Malaysia.The ITTO Sarawak Mission was jointly set by Sarawak and ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organization), which is a forum on consultation on tropical forest matter. How to conserve the forests without hindering the economic interests of the countries is always the main focus of the discussion. Malaysia is also involved in the United Nations Development Programme and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Through continuous cooperation and negotiation, the worldwide deforestation problem could be addressed more efficiently.What Else Can We Do? Although the above solutions have been implemented by the local government, the deforestation rate of Sarawak is still increasing, revealing the inefficiency of the policies. The greatest obstacle still remains at the standpoint of the Malaysian Government. Receiving enormous money return from logging and oil palm plantation, it has put economical benefit at a cost of environmental deterioration.
Apart from the local government, all other stakeholders should also play a role to save this precious natural ecosystem. Role Played by AboriginalsAboriginals are the one that we are protecting in the conservation of rainforest campaigns. They, however, are also the one who are worsening the deforestation problem. Owing to rapid population growth, the indigenous tributes are destroying the forests through intense slash and burn cultivation. To save the rainforest, the aboriginals should have birth control in order to make shifting cultivation sustainable. Also, as the native aboriginals have rich knowledge about the natural biodiversity and the rainforests. They could be the eco-tour guides, taking tourists to travel around the rainforests.
They could contribute to the tourism industry, and also earn a living. The booming ecotourism would be a long-term income generator for the aboriginals, so that they do not have to burn the forests for livelihood. Role Played by Commercial Developers It is hard to urge the commercial developers from the developed countries to seize logging when a huge economic return is ahead.
Instead, sustainable logging should be promoted. The loggers should replant the cleaned trees for the sake of sustainable development. Role Played by Rural Banks and Saving InstitutionsFor the rural villages in particular, they could be engaged in partnership with the NGOs or involved in small enterprises to invest in non-timber resources, such as fruits, spies and dyes. Therefore, rural bank and saving institutions should provide financial support and low-interest loan for the local people to establish their own businesses. Also, some local small agroforestry projects could be dedicated to the local villages, so that they could have income without depleting the timber. With a gradual economic transition in the local community, the threat to rainforest could be lower.Role Played by NGOs When the government starts to concern about the environmental issues, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seem to be more active in dealing with the deforestation problem. They are a strong driving force in the entire campaign of protecting rainforests, rather than the local government.
The NGOs in Malaysia, such as the Malayan Nature Society(MNS) and Environmental Protection Society Malaysia, struggle to keep the topics about rainforest conservation on the government’s policy agenda.In 2007, the NGOs grouped together to fight against the public listing of the Samling group that is a logging corporation based in Sarawak. Although it did not stop the listing, it did show the determination and passion of the NGOs in environmental affairs. It would continue to place pressures on the local government in the rainforest preservation. Conclusion The deforestation problem of Sarawak is only the tip of the iceberg. It gives insight into other developing countries which are facing the trade-off between benefits and drawbacks of deforestation.
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