Friday, March 24, 2017

A giant reason to conserve Sabah's forests

A towering giant has recently been discovered in the heart of Borneo, the most imposing of its kind in a land of giants. The world's tallest tropical tree stands at over 94m - taller than New York City's Statue of Liberty or the former Asia Insurance Building at Raffles Place.

Researchers found it in a protected Sabah forest and are hoping that the discovery will highlight the need to conserve the forests of Borneo, home to thriving wildlife and plants.

Said ecologist Gregory Asner, who found the tree with his colleagues: "Sabah (and Borneo in general) harbours some of the most spectacular tropical trees on earth. I have worked throughout the Amazon, Central America, on tropical islands including Madagascar, in tropical Africa and beyond, and yet Sabah's forests stand out as truly inspiring."

The Shorea faguetiana tree first caught the eye of researchers last year when Dr Asner and his colleagues were surveying Sabah's forests in a helicopter.

That was when they struck gold and found the tree that turned out to be 94.1m tall, with an immense canopy measuring 40.3m in diameter, in an undisturbed forest patch in Danum Valley.

Even better, they also found 49 other specimens taller than 90m spread all over Sabah, all of which would have crushed the previous record for tallest tropical tree.

Describing the moment he saw the tallest among them, Dr Asner, director of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory at the Carnegie Institution for Science in the United States, told environmental news site Mongabay it was flanked on each side by a tree of the same species of Shorea, each almost as tall.

"There are three trees, like brothers, standing above the rest of the canopy. I almost cried as we circled the tree maybe 10 times before the pilot said we had to go back," he said.

The previous record belonged to an 89.5m giant discovered in Sabah's Maliau Basin last year. It was reportedly spotted during a research project that used an airborne Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) scanner to create 3D images of forest structure.

News of the latest record prompted Datuk Sam Mannan, the Chief Conservator of Forests at the Sabah Forestry Department, to organise an expedition to locate the tree and determine what species it was.

After trekking through a forest trail on Feb 22 this year, the team found the tree on a slope at about 359m above sea level. Mr Juanis Runcin of the Sabah Forestry Department then climbed the tree to obtain leaf samples so that the tree species could be identified.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A giant reason to conserve Sabah's forests