My current ecological research seeks to evaluate the variation in tree species along an environmental gradient through the rainforest. Of particular interest is the succession in secondary swamp forests and any novel traits which might characterize a particular species. My goal is to determine the make-up of the tree community and identify the pioneer species. Interests down the line will include the community’s flowering and fruiting phenology. With this data, KOPEL along with the Sabah Forest Department will be able to design a successful habitat restoration management plan for the associated forest types in the reserve where in the past El Nino droughts triggered damaging forest fires. So far KOPEL has restored 1600 hectares of forest!
This first step in undergoing this study is designing the sample methods. We chose a transect-based system based on its efficiency and ease of measurement. Regardless of the method, everything always begins on the computer using GPS Basecamp before going to the field. A deliberate plan is necessary for any ounce of success. The first day out was spent scouting the forest. Most of it was flooded and we spent a lot of energy circumnavigating the main line into the plot. Constructing a transect in the thick, secondary jungle requires a ton of effort. By day two we knew what to expect and came better prepared, although it still took nearly eight hours to manage 200 meters. The afternoon consisted of three guys plus myself, four parangs, one compass, one Garmin, red tiger paint, nylon string and measuring tape. We have a total of one kilometer to complete before any sampling occurs. Lots of blood, sweat & tears go into transect-based sampling when your PSP is located in the humid tropical rainforest full of ratan!
The goal of habitat restoration is to restore the native flora of degraded ecosystems while promoting biodiversity and protecting species against the dangers of small population sizes. An essential part of restoration monitoring is a commitment to data management and careful archiving of the findings. Once all of our data is collected we will analyze it and use it to determine future management in the Pin-Supu Forest Reserve. As stated by the Sabah Forest Department, the long-term vision for the Pin-Supu Forest Reserve is for the protection and enhancement of the unique and diverse forests which provide viable wildlife habitat and perform important ecological functions, such as- flood mitigation, future seed resources and other vital ecological services. KOPEL is working to restore and build the canopy to promote the climax species such as the orangutan. I hope that I have more opportunities in the future to continue my research with KOPEL!