March 21 is celebrated as a celebration of World Forest Day. Forests are defined as areas overgrown by abandoned wild trees, forests that are the natural habitat of flora and fauna. Malaysia is rich in a variety of forest types that store a wide variety of flora and fauna. Every species that exists plays an important role in ensuring the stability of the ecosystem and with the decrease in this diversity of life, there is a decrease in the stability in the ecosystem. Most importantly, the existence of forests is also recognized as the key to preventing climate change.
According to the United Nations (UN), about 1.6 million people depend on forests for livelihood, medicine, fuel, food and even shelter. Unfortunately, we fail to see and evaluate the importance of the function and role of biodiversity in forests in maintaining the prosperity and well -being of universal human beings.
To understand the importance of forests, the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, Puchong owned by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) can be used as an example. This forest serves for teaching, research and training activities for UPM students, staff and researchers. The 1,176.1 -hectare forest is inhabited by 430 species of flowering plants, 33 species of ferns, 127 species of logs and 99 species of herbs. Here there is also fauna, including five of the 10 species of large mammals in Peninsular Malaysia, 208 species of birds including 35 endangered species and 30 species of migratory species, 14 species of small mammals including kongkang, 13 species of bats, 18 species of frogs, two species of reptiles and 10 fish species. The diversity of this species is an attraction among researchers to conduct scientific studies on the forest reserve through expertise in various disciplines. In fact, this forest acts as a ‘carbon sequestration’ which is an absorber of carbon and toxic gases while supplying oxygen to the population, apart from being a source of water with the water quality of Sungai Rasau as far as 2 kilometers starting from the source is Class 1 water and very clear. All these services are provided free of charge by the Creator naturally.
However, over time, forest ecosystems face the threat of deterioration of their function and integrity due to development and economic demands. Referring to the mangrove swamp ecosystem which has experienced drastic decline, its negative effects have been seen, including the decline in fishermen's catches including fish, crabs and shellfish which is partly due to the loss of mangrove swamp forest area which is a breeding ground for marine life. At the same time, it also results in the problem of coastal erosion caused by the loss of this natural breakwater. Sediment deposition in the estuary as a result of the destruction of mangrove swamp forests has affected the estuary area and caused floods, especially after heavy rains and during high tide.
The passionate exploration of the Permanent Forest Reserve has also resulted in conflicts between humans and wild animals. In October 2019 it was reported, there were over 180 cases of elephants leaving their original habitat in search of food. Most of the elephants are reported to come out of forest reserves around Pahang, such as Kemasul Forest Reserve (Temerloh), Kota Gelanggi Forest Reserve (Jerantut) and also Lesong Forest Reserve in Rompin because their original habitat has been explored to farms and gardens.
Therefore, the authorities at the state and district levels must ensure that every development plan involving the conversion of forest land use does not conflict with the physical planning plan, especially the National Physical Plan (NPP). The NPP identifies forest fragmentation as a threat to forest conservation and biodiversity. There is no doubt that the logging sector is important as a source of revenue for the state government. However, it is time for the implementation of ecosystem service fees (PES) to conserve forest resources for the sake of forest sustainability, society and the country. The concept of 'forest beyond timber' emphasizes logging activities not as one of the main sources of revenue for the state government, but instead sees forest services in playing a role in terms of eco-tourism, biodiversity and medicine in generating revenue for the state in the future. The fact is, only with sustainable planning and management can minimize the rate of loss of forested areas and prevent the occurrence of forest fragmentation.
By: Prof. Prof. Dr. Haliza Abdul Rahman, Head of Laboratory, Youth Laboratory in Leadership, Politics & Citizenship, Social Science Studies Institute (IPSAS), UPM
Date of Input: 12/07/2022 | Updated: 19/07/2022 | nooryati
Universiti Putra Malaysia
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