The historical signing of the “Heart of Borneo Declaration” reflects the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia’s commitment to ensure the effective management and conservation of a network of protected areas, sustainably managed forests and land-use zones across 22-million hectares declared the HoB boundary within the island of Borneo.
Brunei has allocated about 58 per cent of its total land area, roughly 346,000 hectares, to HoB management as it wants to ensure that these areas can continue to contribute to its economic development through tourism and commercial activities.
Brunei’s commitment to preserving its green resources is reflected through the ability of the country to maintain the tropical rainforests which cover about 75 per cent of its total land area. It has also securely gazetted 41 per cent of its total land area as forest reserve.
The National Forestry Policy 1989 emphasised the need to exercise the principle of sustainable forest management, while the implementation of the HoB initiative has strengthened those conservation efforts put in place nearly 20 years earlier.
In support of the HoB Initiative and conservation of its high value forest and biodiversity, the Forestry Department has closed all its logging concessions within Brunei’s peat swamp forests. The country’s forest wetlands are considered to be one of the best in the region. They maintain water level stability and the carbon sink, which play crucial roles in climate change mitigation.
Despite their undisputed importance, peat swamp forests continue to be threatened by drainage and disturbance activities such as sand mining. Several projects are underway to reduce the impact of drainage and other development activities on the ecosystem of these tropical moist forests.
One such project is the canal blocking project along the Badas BLNG pipe-line in the Belait District, a part of the peatland rehabilitation component under the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) project of Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), in collaboration with Wetlands International.
The aim of the project is to raise the water table over areas facing major drainage issues and subsequent fire episodes. Continuous monitoring has shown that the water level has risen and the occurrence of fires at the project area has reduced. Since August 2017, the same exercise has been carried out along the Badas BSP pipe-line. Findings learnt from these exercises will be replicated in peatland areas to reduce the occurrence of peat fires, especially during the dry season.
This is another project within the PSF conducted by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism. It is
another project in support of the Heart of Borneo Initiative being conducted within the PSF.
The objective of the project is to understand the carbon balance, peat formation and decomposition, and forest dynamics of PSF. It is hoped that the outcomes of the project will provide better understanding of PSF’s roles on the environment and may shed some light on how to deal with climate change-related issues.
Other research activities implemented over the years in support of the HoB Initiative included biodiversity surveys of its flora and fauna, such as the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey; Biodiversity survey within the PSF under the Biodiversity Action Plan project of the BSP; Biodiversity surveys conducted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD); and others.
These research activities have highlighted the richness and diversity of the flora and fauna of the country, including the identification of six new species of Odonata (dragonfly and amselfly) for Brunei’s record and a new record of damselfly to the world, scientifically named Mortonagrion megabinluyog, which were all discovered in the peatlands of Belait. This would create great opportunities for Brunei to turn its pristine tropical rainforest into a global natural laboratory for research in the fields of natural sciences and environmental economics.
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