Background

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BIOLOGICAL CONTEXT


Malaysia is one of twelve mega-diversity countries in the world in where rich species and ecosystem diversities are recognized. Over 15,000 known flowering plants, 1,500 terrestrial vertebrates and 150,000 invertebrates are distributed in Malaysia. Although total numbers of plants and land vertebrate species of Malaysia are not the greatest in four countries in East Asia, number of species per sq. km is the highest (Table 1.1).

These rich species diversity are important resources for development of Malaysia and also for the world as human common heritage, on the other hand number of threatened plants and higher vertebrates of Malaysia per sq. km are also the highest in the four countries except for birds. Increase of protected area is small in Malaysia but the decrease of forest habitat is large as compare to other Asian countries.

Malaysia is comprised of West Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) Species richness per sq. km. in the East Malaysia (1.2/1000 sq. km, land mammals) is higher than that of average of whole Malaysia (0.87/1000 sq. km ). The rich biodiversity of Malaysia is supported by diverse habitats, especially by tropical rainforest. There was a stretch of forests in Malaysia including Sabah, the nearest tropical rainforest to Japan. But the forest extent has been reduced to 63% of the federal land by land utilization changes.

Table 1.1:
Species richness and threatened plants and higher vertebrates of
four countries in East Asia
Country
State area (1000 sq km )
(rounded)
Known/
Threatened
Plants
Mammals
Birds
Reptiles
No.
Species
No./1000
sq. km
No.
Species
No./1000
sq. km
No.
Species
No./1000
sq. km
No.
Species
No./1000
sq. km
Malaysia
330
Known
15,000
45.5
286
0.87
736
2.23
268
0.81
Threatened
522
1.58
23
0.07
35
0.11
12
0.04
Indonesia
1,900
Known
20,000
10.5
515
0.27
1519
0.80
511
0..27
Threatened
70
0.07
49
0.03
135
0.07
13
0.01
Philipine
300
Known
8,000
26.6
166
0.55
395
1.32
193
0.64
Threatened
159
0.53
12
0.04
39
0.13
6
0.02
China
9,600
Known
30,000
3.1
394
0.04
1,100
0.12
282
0.03
Threatened
350
0.04
40
0.004
83
0.01
7
0.0007

Data source: Malaysia known species = MOSTE (1997), other counties and thereatened species = IUCN (1992)

Decrease rate of the forest of Sabah is the highest in the three regions of Malaysia, whereas percentage of protected areas to the state area is less than the Peninsular Malaysia, on the other hand oil palm plantation is increasing rapidly (Table 1.2, Table 2.1-3). Biodiversity and ecosystem conservation in Sabah is an urgent problem to deal for sustainable development of Malaysia.

Table 1.2:
Tropical moist forests (original versus remaining extent) and protected area of Malaysia
Region
Total Area (sq. km)
Tropical moist forest condition
Protected Area #
Approximate original extent of closed tropical moist forest (sq. km)
Existing tropical moist (sq. km)
% remaining
Approx. area
% of State
Sabah
73,711
70,000
36,000
51
3,900
5.2
Sarawak
124,449
130,000
94,670
79
2,600
2.1
Peninsular
131,573
120,000
69,780
54
7,400
5.6
Total
329,733
320,000
200,450
63
13,900
4.2

Data source: IUCN (1992) and MOSTE (1997)
#Note: National Parks, Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary (source: Thang, 1991)


Although Malaysia is rich biodiversity country, there are large numbers of threatened species as mentioned above. Defintion of the threatenedspecies is rather complicated because proper assessment of threat level is usually difficult, and globally threatened (or abundance) situations are different for many species. Table 1.3 shows endemic species, threatened animals and plants listed in IUCN-RDB and protected species in Malaysia. Data on plants is endemic in Borneo. The number of protected and endemic species is also large in Sabah.

Table 1.3:
Endemic species and protected species in Malaysia
Taxon
Number of Species
Endemic Species
IUCN-RDB
Protected species by state legislation
Peninsular
Sabah
Sarawak
Totally protected
protected
Plants
15,000
746
510
nd
4
13
nd
Mammals
286
27
42
5
6
65
6
Birds
736
11
34
495
131
8
8
Reptiles
268
69
14
1
3
7
3
Amphibian
158
69
0
0
0
0
0

Data Source: 1. MOSTE (1997), 2) Japan Wildlife Research Center (1990), 3) Sabah Wildlife Dept., 4) in 2,830 woody species (MOSTE, 1997)
Note: State legislation; Peninsular = protection of Wildlife Act, Sabah = Protected Animals and Birds, Sarawak = Protected Wildlife

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