Trees & soil as economic infrastructure

Sarawak’s new Forests (Amendment) Bill 2022 ushers in a new era in Sarawak’s timber industry by targeting to minimise deforestation even as NGOs step up their forest advocacy efforts.

Stretching over 800km along the northwest coast of Borneo, Sarawak houses an unimaginably vast diversity of flora and fauna species endemic to local Bornean forests. Some species are endangered while there are many that have yet to be explored and discovered.

While endangered species of animals like the proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and rhinoceros hornbills have successfully gained recognition and adoration of the world, there are comparably fewer discussions about endangered plant species, and even much lesser on the micro biodiversity that comprises algae, fungi, and bacteria – all of which form the foundation of Sarawak’s virgin rainforests as old as 130 million years old.

Normally, when people see a plot of land with many trees – they will assume it’s a forest,” says Ang Tse Chwan, president of the Society of Wilderness (SOW) in Sarawak. “While there are many different kinds of interpretation for the word, a true primary forest is completely on a different level when it comes to understanding the ecosystem.”

The Bornean rainforest has been acknowledged worldwide as one of the most distinct and species-rich – reports have identified within a 10-hectare plot over 700 species of trees, each of which has its distinct role to play and its unique way of interacting with other species in the ecosystem. For comparison, that is the total number of tree species in Canada and the United States combined.

“The forest itself is a living organism, and there is plenty of wisdom we can learn from it,” Ang adds, “there is more value in the biodiversity of Sarawak’s virgin forests than its deforestation.”

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