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THE STRUCTURE AND BIODIVERSITY OF PEAT SWAMP FOREST

Mashhor Mansor and Asyraf Mansor Universiti Sains Malaysia Malaysia

Introduction Although the forest community structure, pattern and biodiversity of peat swamps have been studied, but not that extensive. Peat swamp forests have unique features which no other type of forests posses. The waterlogged condition, the high level of acidity and organic materials, the low input of nutrient and the lack of soil or firm ground within the peat swamp forests have resulted in the different forest structures. Studies on Malaysian peat swamp forests have been carried out (i.e. Ibrahim and Chong, 1992; Ibrahim and Ismail, 1995), however the current information on flora and fauna of this ecosystem is still inadequate. Perhaps some of the endemic species are yet to be discovered and identified. However, human intrusions into pristine peat swamp forest have created a large adverse impact to the natural ecosystem. Endemic species are threatened by several disturbances particularly due to the colonization of exotic and weedy species. The timber production in peat swamp forest is low when compare to the lowland or mix dipterocarp forests. Therefore, the problem faced by peat swamp forest is due to the reclamation activities for agricultural sectors and other infrastructures should be checked. The remaining pristine peat swamp forests need to be protected and managed wisely in order to prevent from further losses of valuable endemic species. Forest Structure and Diversity Structure Anderson (1964) recognizes six zones of phase of vegetation in peat swamp forest. This setting is from the margin of the forest towards the center or dome of the peat swamps. However, there are not definite separation or well define border off all the communities. Further more, it is sometimes not possible to locate all species in the peat swamp plant communities. 1) Mixed swamp forest: A marginal zone within rivers flooding area. It is a mixed communities and strongly associated with each other. Important species found in this area are Gonystylus bancanus, Copaifera palustris and Shorea sp. This zone almost more or less resembles the mixed dipterocarp forest. 2) Alan forest: A zone with single species, Shorea albida dominating the area. However, Gonystylus bancanus and other small trees are the most common associates of the Shorea albida. 3) Alan bunga forest: The highest stratum only belongs to Shorea albida. Strata B is almost non exist. However, lower to the forest floor is moderately filled by various species. 4) High pole forest: These communities are full of Litsea palustris, Parastemon spicatum and Tristaniopsis spp. 5) Low pole forest: A narrow zone, almost similar to the high pole zone but the trees are shorter and densely distributed. One of the most abundant species recorded in this zone is Palaquim spp. 6) Padang keruntum: Very open zone, common with herbs and other small trees. There are Cyperaceae, Nepenthes spp and Pandanus spp, to name among other ground vegetation. The highly disturbed peat swamp forests can be reflected by destructed topographic and hydrological systems with a different set of floral species. Fern colonies and other fast growing species such as sedges and grasses will replace the timber and tree communities. The classification of disturbed peat swamps based on the several criteria;

1. Totally destructed site; for example industrial estates and housing areas 2. Destructed sited; for example agricultural areas 3. Successional level a. Pioneer community b. Alang along community (Imperata cylindrical) c. Weed community d. Macaranga community 4. Secondary forest

Trees Most species in peat swamp forests belong to the Myrtaceae and Dipterocarpaceae. Ismail (2001) working on timber species of Pondok Tanjong peat swamp forest has reported that Syzygium grandis, are the most dominant species recorded in two 100m2 study plots (Table 1). A total of 52 and 48 individuals have been recorded respectively in the two study plots. The Pondok Tanjong peat swamp forest located within the Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve (PTFR) is facing high possibility of invasion by exotic species due to the close proximity of an adjacent oil palm plantation. Serve as forest reserve for timber production, the forest flora many face large impact of human activities. Anderson (1964) has listed common timber trees recorded in peat swamp forests of Sarawak included Shorea albida, Shorea macrantha, Dryobalanops sp. (Dipterocarpaceae), Elaeocarpus beccari (Tiliaceae), Parastemon spicatum (Rosaceae) and Artocarpus glaucus (Moraceae). Hopea sp. (Dipterocarpaceae) and several other timber or bigger tree species has been observed to posses special rooting system (stilt roots) for better mechanical support.

Non-timber Common non-timber families recorded in peat swamp forest of PTFR are Araceae, Zingerberaceae, Pandanaceae, Commelinaceae, Taccaceae, Orchidaceae, Begoniaceae and Nymphaceae (Masnadi, 1995). The Palmae group also plays an important part in biodiversity of peat swamp forest. According to (Mukhtar, 2001), the ability to survive in water logged conditions and high acidity contents in peat swamps, are among the adaptations posses by Palmae. A total of six species of Palmae have been recorded in PTFR (Table 1). An interesting terrestrial orchid, Cystorchis varieagata, was also been observed in peat swamps of PTFR. This kind of orchid is better known for its beautiful foliage rather than its flower. The acidity of the organic matter and the water may have certain effect on this species. Due to these reasons, the Barclaya also flourished in streams within the peat swamp forest. This aquatic plant plays an important part as aquarium ornamental plant apart from Cryptocoryne. Cryptocoryne spp. communities have been recorded in many pristine wetland areas (i.e. Masnadi, 1995; Mansor, 1997). Both the peat swamp and freshwater swamp forests are the most suitable location for this species to survive since this aquatic endemic species is sensitive to water level changes throughout the year for reproduction purpose. Another important groups of plant in peat swamp forests are the sedges (Cyperaceae) and ferns. The common sedges found in peat swamps are Thorachostachyum bancanum, Fimbristylis umbellaris, Eleocharis dulcis, Fuirena cilliaris, Scleria sumatrensis and Scleria bancana. Most of these species are

recorded in nearby open area and also on the riparian part of the stream. However, other species of sedges (Cyperus haspan, Cyperus iria and Cyperus rotandus) were also observed especially in peat swamp forest with adjacent oil palm plantation nearby. The history of disturbance in peat swamp forests also plays an important part in determining the regenerating species. Forest fire occurred in peatland usually will generate more colonies of ferns at the first stage regeneration. This phenomenon can be observed in most peatlands especially in Pahang. Generally the hydrological systems of most disturbed peat swamps are partly and mostly destroyed. Streams and other water bodies are highly eutrophicated which harbour large population of toxic algal species especially from Cynophyta and Chlorophyta.

Gap in Information 1) The inland peat swamp forests need further attention to study their structures and species diversity. 2) The forest bordering effect the pristine peat swamps especially the ecotone communities should be studied, adjacent open area, plantations and human settlement need to be monitored. 3) The structure of regenerating plant communities in disturbed and highly disturbed peat swamp forests. 4) The influence of adjacent ecosystems on the condition of peat swamps.

Reference Anderson, J.A.R. (1964). The structure and development of peat swamps of Sarawak and Brunei. Journal of Tropical Geography, 18: 7-16. Ibrahim, S. and P. H. Chong (1992). Floristic composition of Virgin Jungle Reserve (VJR) at Kuala Langat South peat swamp forest, Selangor, Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal, 46: 85-95. Ibrahim, S. and H., Ismail (1995). The impacts of the present landuse on peat swamp forests in Peninsular Malaysia. Malayan Forester, 54(3): 315­324. Ismail, M.N.H (2001). The composition and distribution of timber trees in peat swamp forest. (In Bahasa Malaysia). B.Sc. Thesis. Pp. 76. Universiti Sains Malaysia: Penang. Mansor, M. (1997). Environment and Man - the perspective distribution, diversity and evolution of aquatic plant. (In Bahasa Malaysia). Series of Professor Talk. Universiti Sains Malaysia. Masnadi, M. (1995). The distribution of two endemic species of Cryptocoryne in Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve. (In Bahasa Malaysia). M.Sc. Thesis. Universiti Sains Malaysia: Penang. Mukhtar, E.M. (2001). The diversity and composition of palm in Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve, Perak. (In Bahasa Malaysia). B.Sc. Thesis. Pp. 85. Universiti Sains Malaysia: Penang.

Table 1: Common timber species recorded in peat swamps of Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve, Perak. Family Myrtaceae Species Syzygium chlorantha Syzygium papillosa Syzygium grandis Pometia pinnata f. alnifolia Pometia pinnata f. glabra Pometia ridley Koompasia malaccensis Dillenia pulchella Dillenia indica Calophyllum austrocoriaceum Parashorea densiflora Shorea platycarpa Shorea leprosula Dyera costulata Alstonia angustolaba Cinnamon mollissimum Alphonsea curtisii Ganua hirtiflora Myristica cinnamomea Campnosperma auriculatum Campnosperma squamatum Hibiscus floccosus Castanopis inermis Ficus annulata

Sapindaceae

Leguminosae Dilleniaceae Guttiferae Dipterocarpaceae

Apocynaceae Lauraceae Annonaceea Sapotaceae Myristicaceae Anacardiaceae Malvaceae Fagaceae Urticaceae

Table 2: Species of palm recorded in peat swamps of Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve, Perak. Family Arecoideae Species Iguanura geonamaeformis Pinanga disticha Pinanga polymorpha Calamus axillaris Khortalsia lanceolata Salaca conferta

Lepidocaryoideae

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