Sunday, March 24, 2013

Exploring Bukit Lima Forest Park in Sibu

WHAT is so special about Bukit Lima Forest Park in Sibu? Well, it’s a cool place to jog, mornings or evenings.

Two plank walk trails totalling 6km run mostly through a shady forest, with some open more exposed areas.

For those who like to observe, it is a place to experience nature’s wonders, be it the birdlife (bright red scarlet-rumped trogons in the undergrowth just a stone’s throw away), the jungle fruits that one can spot on the plank walk or the huge variety of trees – trunks of all shapes, sizes, colours and textures and foliage fi lling most available spaces.

But there is something else special about Bukit Lima Forest Park.

Maybe most of us who enjoy a walk or jog along the plank walks do not realise that this patch of forest, albeit disturbed, is a recognisable remnant of the vast peat swamp forest that once covered the coastal fl at plain stretching about 500km from the mouth of Batang Lupar to Kidurong Point and covering approximately 12 per cent of the state’s total landmass.

The forest at Bukit Lima Forest Park likely represents two different peat swamp forest communities known as mixed swamp forest and alan forest.

The ramin telur (or lunak), meranti paya, meranti buaya, meranti lop and meranti lilin that we found on a recent two-day identifi cation exercise of the trees along the plank walk at Bukit Lima are typical species of the mixed swamp forest, which occurs at the perimeters of swamps.

However, at one point along the plank walk we also saw a number of stumps of alan trees.

Alan is a dipterocarp species that gives its name to a particular peat swamp forest community where it occurs abundantly and gregariously (many specimens growing closely together).

Alan is easily recognised by its large size, high buttresses still visible on stumps left after logging many years ago, and hollow boles.

A number of semayur trees, elegant with slender stem and drooping branches, were spotted in the transitional zone between the mixed swamp and alan forests.

Altogether, during our investigations in the forest park we ‘logged’ more than 50 species of forest trees, most of them typical of peat swamp.

Although the area has been logged, as the hollow stumps of the alan trees remind us, and some areas have probably been burnt, leaving large areas of scrub and fern, we did see saplings of some forest species, indicating some regeneration is occurring.

So next time – especially you fortunate Sibu folk – you fancy a walk, go check out Bukit Lima Forest Park.

Hopefully, you will be able to spot specimens of trees that helped to make Sarawak great, including the timber species ramin and alan, which were of great economic importance to Sarawak from the 1950s till the 1990s.

You would be hard put to fi nd another patch of peat swamp forest so accessible to city folk.

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