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Up in the Clouds: Is Sustainable Use of Tropical Montane Cloud Forests Possible in Malaysia?

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Perched atop misty mountains, tropical montane cloud forests are one of Earth's most imperiled and neglected ecosystems. More than half of these forests occur in Southeast Asia; those in Malaysia are considered some of the best studied in the region. Malaysia has numerous mountains that are exceptionally rich in biodiversity and sustain numerous locally endemic species, but they are also threatened by expanding forestry, agriculture, infrastructure, and global warming. Malaysia serves as an excellent case study to illustrate the issues and challenges associated with tropical cloud forest conservation. We critically assess the current status of Malaysia's cloud forests—focusing on their biological uniqueness and prospects for long-term survival—and propose conservation strategies for agricultural, forestry, tourism, and policy sectors to help conserve these endangered ecosystems. It is our hope that decisionmakers around the region can use our review to evaluate and improve their national strategies related to cloud forest conservation.
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Up in the Clouds: Is Sustainable Use of Tropical Montane Cloud Forests Possible in Malaysia?
Author(s): Kelvin S.-H. Peh, Malcolm C. K. Soh, Navjot S. Sodhi, William F. Laurance, Dylan
Jefri Ong, Reuben Clements
Source:
BioScience,
Vol. 61, No. 1 (January 2011), pp. 27-38
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Articles
www.biosciencemag.org January 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 1 • BioScience 27
Up in the Clouds: Is Sustainable Use
of Tropical Montane Cloud Forests
Possible in Malaysia?
KELVIN S.-H. PEH, MALCOLM C. K. SOH, NAVJOT S. SODHI, WILLIAM F. LAURANCE, DYLAN JEFRI ONG, AND
REUBEN CLEMENTS
Perched atop misty mountains, tropical montane cloud forests are one of Earth’s most imperiled and neglected ecosystems. More than half of these
forests occur in Southeast Asia; those in Malaysia are considered some of the best studied in the region. Malaysia has numerous mountains that are
exceptionally rich in biodiversity and sustain numerous locally endemic species, but they are also threatened by expanding forestry, agriculture,
infrastructure, and global warming. Malaysia serves as an excellent case study to illustrate the issues and challenges associated with tropical cloud
forest conservation. We critically assess the current status of Malaysia’s cloud forests—focusing on their biological uniqueness and prospects for
long-term survival—and propose conservation strategies for agricultural, forestry, tourism, and policy sectors to help conserve these endangered
ecosystems. It is our hope that decisionmakers around the region can use our review to evaluate and improve their national strategies related to
cloud forest conservation.
Keywords: agriculture, biodiversity, commercial forestry, roads, Southeast Asia tourism
(table 1). Cloud forests in the region are being destroyed at
alarming rates—23% faster than their lowland counterparts
(from 1981 to 1990; Waggener and Lane 1997). Moreover, in
relative terms, it appears that the countries with the greatest
amount of cloud forest are losing it most quickly (table 1).
To date, most research on threats to cloud forests has
focused on the Neotropics, with relatively little work done in
Southeast Asia. In fact, the number of threatened montane
mammals and birds in this region is likely to be underesti-
mated (Brook et al. 1999). With this in mind, we review the
state of Malaysia’s cloud forests, which are arguably some of
the best documented in the region. Apart from describing
their local distribution, physiognomy, protection status, bio-
logical and ecological importance, and threats to them, we
also propose several strategies to promote the sustainability
of cloud forests in Malaysia. Relevant components of these
strategies could also be adopted by other Southeast Asian
countries whose cloud forests share similarities in ecology
and challenges associated with their use in a sustainable
manner.
Distribution, physiognomy, and protection status
The nation of Malaysia has two distinct parts: (1) Peninsu-
lar Malaysia, spanning 11 states southward from near the
Isthmus of Kra to the Johor Straits, with the Titiwangsa
Mountain Range forming a spine along the Peninsula; and
(2) East Malaysia, encompassing two states—Sarawak and
Sabah—in the north and northwestern parts of Borneo,
Southeast Asia’s ecosystems and biodiversity are gravely
imperiled (Sodhi et al. 2010), and the fate of the
region’s tropical montane cloud forests (hereafter, “cloud
forests”) is particularly uncertain. Although cloud forests are
one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems (Bubb et al.
2004), especially given current prospects for global warming,
they attract little research. Over the past two decades, for
example, studies of cloud forests have contributed just 5% of
biodiversity research in Southeast Asia, compared with 74%
for lowland forests (figure 1).
A clear demarcation of tropical montane cloud forests
is difficult, as their altitudinal range depends on prevail-
ing local climatic conditions (Bruijnzeel et al. 1993). For
example, cloud forests generally occur at altitudes of 1200
meters (m) on coastal and isolated ridges or on mountain
summits where gnarled tree forms are dominant and cloud
formation is frequent. However, cloud forests can also occur
between 2000 and 3000 m on large inland mountains, and
as low as 500 m above sea level on small islands (Bruijnzeel
et al. 1993). Cloud forests are therefore defined in this review
as “forests that are predominantly covered in cloud or mist,
where the influence of temperature and humidity is signifi-
cant (Bruijnzeel 2000).
Southeast Asia’s cloud forests account for more than half
of these forests globally, an area totaling some 32 million
hectares (ha) (table 1; Sodhi and Brook 2006). Indonesia
has the most cloud forest in Southeast Asia, at 19.5 million
ha, followed by Myanmar (Burma), with 4.3 million ha
BioScience 61: 27–38. ISSN 0006-3568, electronic ISSN 1525-3244. © 2011 by American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights reserved. Request permis-
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28 BioScience • January 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 1 www.biosciencemag.org
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with mountains rising sharply in the interior to the border
of Kalimantan, Indonesia (figure 2). Numerous mountains
and mountain chains occur in Malaysia; about 7% of the
total land area is above 900 m elevation (Economic Planning
Unit 1993).
In comparison with lowland tropical rainforests, cloud
forests generally have shorter trees, a higher stem density,
gnarled and twisted trunks and branches, dense and com-
pact crowns, and tough sclerophyllic leaves of frequently
smaller sizes (Whitmore 1975). On Malaysian mountains,
the vegetation in the lower montane zone (900 to 1200 m
elevation in coastal or isolated mountains; 1200 to 1800 m
in Mount Kinabalu, Sabah) is generally 25 to 30 m tall, with
trees dominated by the families Fagaceae and Lauraceae
(Kitayama 1992, Perumal and Lo 1998). In the upper mon-
tane zone (above 1200 m elevation in Peninsular Malaysian
mountains; above 1800 m in Mount Kinabalu), trees are
stunted, just 10 to 20 m tall, and are largely confined to
members of the Coniferae, Ericaceae, and Myrtaceae fami-
lies (Perumal and Lo 1998). Above the tree line, in the alpine
zone that occurs only on Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, cloud
forest shrubs are less than 10 m tall (see Kumaran et al. 2010
for a comprehensive vegetation description). Cloud forests
in Malaysia mostly occur on nutrient-poor soils contain-
ing little nitrogen or phosphorus (Roman et al. 2010) and
derived from weathered igneous or sedimentary rocks
(Proctor 1988, Kitayama 1992).
The cloud forests of Malaysia originally spanned some
2.7 million ha, but today around 23% have been lost
or degraded (Sodhi and Brook 2006). Only about 9%
(216,300 ha) of the present cloud forests are protected
either as national parks or wildlife reserves (corresponding
to International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN]
management categories I–IV; Iremonger et al. 1997). Some
of these are sites of global importance (figure 2), including
Gunung Tahan in West Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu National
Park in Sabah (figure 3a), and Gunung Mulu National Park
in Sarawak (figure 3b). Additional cloud forests in Malaysia
occur in extractive or multiple-use reserves (IUCN man-
agement categories V and VI) or are proposed as mountain
reserves. If these additional areas are included, Malaysia
currently has 356,300 ha (15%) of cloud forest with
some level of existing or planned protection (Iremonger
et al. 1997). These estimates are still valid despite the data
being more than a decade old because there has been
little expansion of protected areas in Malaysia since the
Figure 1. Percentage of Malaysian (black bars) and Southeast
Asian (gray bars) biodiversity research (a total of 1550 and
6468 papers, respectively) conducted across major terrestrial
and freshwater ecosystems (i.e., montane forests, rivers and
lakes, lowland forests, and other ecosystems) over a 20-year
period (1990–2010). These percentages suggest a paucity of
biological information on tropical cloud montane forests
relative to other ecosystems. Data were obtained from article
searches within Topics in the BIOSIS Previews® database
using hierarchically nested combinations of relevant keywords
and wildcards (available from author RC on request).
Table 1. Tropical montane cloud forest cover and deforestation rates in 10 Southeast Asian countries.
Country Forest cover (thousand hectares) Annual percent deforestation rate 2000–2005
Total Cloud (above 1200 meters) Total forest cover Primary forest cover
Brunei Darussalam 442 7 –0.69 –5.88
Burma 34,419 4324 –1.35 n/a
Cambodia 9335 72 –1.90 –2.59
Indonesia 104,986 19,503 –1.61 –3.05
Lao PDR 12,561 913 –0.45 n/a
Malaysia 19,292 2361 –0.65 n/a
Philippines 5789 898 –1.98 n/a
Thailand 14,762 2771 –0.40 –0.7
Timor-Leste 507 n/a n/a n/a
Vietnam 9819 1533 +2.06 –1.14
Source: FAO Forest Resources Assessment 2005, Sodhi and Brook 2006.
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early 1990s, according to the World Database on Pro-
tected Areas 2009 (IUCN-UNEP 2010). The percentage
of protected Malaysian cloud forests is roughly similar to
the level of protection of forest cover in the Indo-Malay
realm (Schmitt et al. 2009). For example, the percentage
of protected Malaysian cloud forests and that of protected
forest cover in the Indo-Malay realm under IUCN manage-
ment categories I–IV are 9% and 10%, respectively; under
IUCN management categories I–VI, these are 15% and
14%, respectively. Considering the importance of cloud
forests and the increasing magnitude of threats to them, it
is likely that current cloud forest protection in Malaysia is
no longer sufficient.
Biological and ecological importance
Cloud forests are impressively biologically diverse. In the
Sunda region, which spans Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo,
Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi, gamma diversity and species
densities of frogs, birds, and mammals in cloud forests
rival or exceed those of lowland rainforests (Ong 2000).
Endemism is especially high in tropical cloud forests
because the tropics have many thermal specialists that tend
to be elevationally specialized. Species adapted for higher
elevations are therefore isolated from other such popula-
tions, leading to allopatric speciation and the evolution of
local endemism (figure 4; Rahbek 1997). Such high levels
of endemism have prompted biologists to classify cloud
forests as critical habitats for conservation (Bubb et al.
2004). For instance, 9 of the 22 plant genera endemic to
Peninsular Malaysia completely belong to the montane
provenance on the main range (Wong 1998). In Borneo,
48% (14 species) of all endemic birds are found only
on Mount Kinabalu, as well as 65% (29 species) of the
island’s endemic mammals (Kumaran et al. 2010). Of the
30 recorded Bornean pitcher plants in the genus Nepenthes
(figure 4b), 23 were recorded in cloud forests, and nearly
Figure 2. Potential distribution of tropical montane cloud forests in Southeast Asia and examples of cloud forests
in Malaysia mentioned in this review, modified from a map by the United Nations Environment Programme World
Conservation Monitoring Centre, 2004.
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every major mountain has its own species (Kumaran et al.
2010). In Borneo, all but 2 of the 30 montane frog species
are locally endemic, and 6 species are endemic to Mount
Kinabalu (Inger and Stuebing 1992). New species are still
being discovered in cloud forests; most new species in
Malaysia have been described from montane regions or
offshore islands (MNRE 2009). In addition to serving as a
haven for endemic species, cloud forests also harbor unique
ecosystems, such as the montane peat swamps of Ulu Padas
in Borneo, which also warrant conservation attention.
The value of cloud forests transcends their biological
uniqueness. In Peninsular Malaysia, for instance, nearly
62,000 indigenous people are scattered across the Titiwangsa
Range (WWF-Malaysia 2002). Cloud forests are also impor-
tant water sources for densely populated lowland areas.
In addition to capturing rainfall, cloud forests strip mois-
ture from passing clouds, which augments groundwater
and maintains stream flows. Cloud stripping can actually
double the amount of effective rainfall in the dry season and
increase total moisture inputs to forests by 10% (Bruijnzeel
et al. 1993). Montane vegetation also protects soils from
erosion and rivers from sedimentation, thereby protecting
the integrity of watersheds (Leong and Chan 2006). Despite
their importance, the hydrological and nutrient-cycling
dynamics of cloud forests in Southeast Asia are still poorly
understood, and more research is clearly needed.
Anthropogenic threats
Using the IUCN Red List database (IUCN 2009), we calcu-
lated the proportions of threatened birds, mammals, and
amphibians in Malaysia and compared them with those in
10 other Southeast Asian countries—Burma, Brunei, Cam-
bodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor-Leste,
Thailand, and Vietnam. Although relatively few montane
bird species were threatened in Malaysia, the numbers
(and proportions) of threatened mammals and amphibians
were among the highest in the region (figure 5). Below, we
highlight the major threats to Malaysian cloud forests and
Figure 3. Protected and disturbed examples of cloud forests in Malaysia. (a) Peak of Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest
mountain (4095 meters [m] above sea level) and a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
World Heritage site; (b) mist-shrouded cloud forests of Gunung Mulu, Sarawak’s second-tallest mountain (2376 m above
sea level), within Gunung Mulu National Park; (c) cloud forests cleared for tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands,
Malaysia’s largest tea-producing region; (d) resorts and residential development have replaced cloud forests in Cameron
Highlands. Photographs: (a) Reuben Clements; (b) Ch’ien C. Lee, and (c and d) Malcolm Soh.
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their biodiversity and ecosystem services—threats that are
also likely to jeopardize the future of other cloud forests in
Southeast Asia.
Agricultural expansion. Cloud forests increasingly have
been cleared for intensive agriculture (figure 3c). In
Sabah, for example, forest conversion for agriculture
and horticulture has progressed to the borders of Mount
Kinabalu National Park, and montane forests in Sabah have
been converted to pastures for cattle (Kitayama 1994). In
the Cameron Highlands and Mount Kinabalu (figure 2),
montane forests have been cleared for exotic temperate
agricultural and horticultural crops (at altitudes as high
as 2100 m on Mount Kinabalu; Kitayama 1994). In the
past decade, 22% of the Cameron Highlands has been
converted for such purposes (Lim 2000). The lack of long-
term investment in sustainable agriculture practices can
be attributed in part to the short-term land leases offered
to resident farmers in the form of temporary occupancy
licenses, which have to be renewed annually. Although
the government introduced guidelines to control and
limit hillside development in the Cameron Highlands in
2002, many large-scale farmers eventually relocated to
the nearby Lojing Highlands (figure 2), an area that was
subsequently devastated by further clearing for agriculture
as it was not affected by the guidelines (McIntyre 2007). In
addition to heavy pesticide use, cultivation in such areas
often involves large amounts of commercial fertilizer
(Kitayama 1994) because vegetation on montane soils
frequently has low net primary productivity and slow rates
of decomposition (Bruijnzeel and Veneklaas 1998). Heavy
pesticide and fertilizer use can eventually contaminate
watersheds (Kitayama 1994). Forest conversion to tea
estates on steep slopes also reduces water yield in highland
streams (Doumenge et al. 1995), and land clearance can
cause severe soil erosion (Leong and Chan 2006). In the
Cameron Highlands, for example, clearing for agriculture
had adverse effects on water catchment areas, resulting in
Figure 4. Examples of species endemic to Malaysian cloud forests. (a) The mountain treeshrew (Tupaia montana) feeds
on a variety of insects and plant materials during the day. (b) A tiny bush frog perches inside the pitcher of Nepenthes
hurrelliana, a carnivorous pitcher plant endemic to Sarawak. (c) The Kinabalu giant earthworm (Pheretima darnleiensis)
is a gray-blue-colored annelid that grows up to 70 centimeters and comes out only after a heavy downpour on Mount
Kinabalu. (d) The black-browed barbet (Megalaima oorti) in Peninsular Malaysia may be highly sensitive to cloud forest
disturbances. Photographs: (a–c) Ch’ien C. Lee and (d) Malcolm Soh.
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Figure 5. Total number and proportion of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threatened cloud forest
species of birds, mammals, and amphibians in 10 Southeast Asian countries. Threatened species include species that are
critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and near-threatened according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
(www.iucnredlist.org). Black bars represent Malaysia.
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stream diversion, reduced storage capacities of reservoirs,
and excessive accumulation of silt at the Sultan Abu Bakar
hydroelectric dam (Barrow 2006). A threefold increase in
siltation in several lowland rivers has also been recorded
since earthworks in the Lojing Highlands began in the
1990s (McIntyre 2007).
Commercial logging. Commercial selective logging, even at
low intensities (Brook et al. 1999), poses a serious threat
to cloud forests in general. Commercial logging affects
around 1.1% of all cloud forests globally per year, a rate
higher than that for other tropical forests (Bruijnzeel and
Hamilton 2000). The timber industry continues to be a
significant contributor to the Malaysian economy. In 2008,
timber and wood products contributed an estimated US
$6.6 billion (Malaysian ringgit [MYR] 22.5 billion) to the
Malaysian economy and 3.3% of the country’s merchandise
exports, and provided employment for around 300,000
people (MOPICO 2009). Although logging has little effect
on forests of the upper montane zone, the lower montane
zone is under immense logging pressure, particularly where
relatively fewer state forest reserves in the lowlands are avail-
able for timber extraction (MOPICO 2009). For instance,
parts of the Lojing Highlands in Peninsular Malaysia have
already been logged indiscriminately since the 1990s (McIn-
tyre 2007). As timber exports from Malaysia are targeted to
increase by 6.4% per annum (MOPICO 2009), the pressure
to extract timber from cloud forests will mount in order to
meet this burgeoning demand.
Although logging operations in Sabah are still mostly
below the montane zone, the potential threat from commer-
cial forestry looms large as new exploitable tree species are
found in the highlands (Kitayama 1994). In fact, logging in
the lowlands of the Crocker Range in Sabah was highlighted
as an impending threat to rare montane herpetofauna
(Das 2006). The expansion of logging roads and modern
extraction techniques will further increase the possibility of
harvesting useful tree species from previously inaccessible
montane regions. The impacts of logging on lower montane
forests are well documented (see Burgess 1971). Even low-
intensity, selective logging that attempts to harvest only 10%
of the stand area ultimately damages 50% to 70% of the
forest area (MSTE 1997). Such extraction methods are likely
to be even more destructive to cloud forests, which often
occur on steep slopes with readily damaged wet organic soil
horizons.
Infrastructure development. According to Burgess (1971), road
construction is probably “the greatest damaging factor in
hill forest exploitation in Malaysia. Over the years, roads
have been constructed in Malaysia’s mountainous regions to
improve accessibility for agriculture, settlement, and other
land uses. With the growing economic potential of local
timber and agricultural industries, the demand for better
road networks in cloud forests is set to increase. There are
already 12 existing major roads in the Titiwangsa Range
(about 2 million ha) in Peninsular Malaysia (Davison 1996),
and plans are afoot to widen them or even build additional
roads to handle growing traffic flow (Leong and Chan 2006).
East-west roads cutting across the Titiwangsa Range have
also been proposed in Malaysia’s National Highway Net-
work Development Plan (DTCP 2006). Such road expansion
schemes will be detrimental to the biological and physical
integrity of the cloud forests, given the well-documented
impact of roads on tropical biodiversity (Laurance et al.
2009). For example, roads can fragment habitats of montane
species with restricted elevation ranges and hinder altitudi-
nal movement (see Young 1994). Road construction in cloud
forests also can destabilize slopes and create downslope scars
(MOW 1995, Leong and Chan 2006). Furthermore, erosion
along highland roads can cause potentially catastrophic
landslides (Leong and Chan 2006). More than 150 loca-
tions have been identified as landslide-prone areas along the
East-West Highway, which cuts across the Titiwangsa Range,
and more than $43 million (MYR 180 million) was allocated
by the government for mitigation work (Davison 1996).
Two of Malaysia’s most dangerous and costly landslides
occurred in the Cameron and Genting highlands, with the
latter resulting in 20 deaths and 22 injured in 1995 (Shaluf
and Ahmadun 2006). In 2008, another massive landslide
rendered a $15-million (MYR 50 million) road linking the
Gap to Fraser’s Hill impassable, and repairs amounted to
an estimated US $6 million (MYR 20 million; MOW 2008).
Apart from roads, the construction of high-voltage electric-
ity pylons and houses on steep slopes may also increase
the probability of landslides in cloud forests (e.g., in the
Cameron Highlands; Chiew 2010).
Tourism development. The worldwide tourism industry cur-
rently generates 9.4% of the global gross domestic product
and employs 220 million people (World Travel and Tourism
Council, www.wttc.org). Tourism trade has been thriving
in many tropical mountainous regions of the world. Data
on the number of tourists in the highlands of Malaysia are
outdated, but even these indicate that 2.3 million tourists
(roughly a fifth of all incoming tourists) visited the high-
lands early in the decade (WWF-Malaysia 2002). In recent
years, overall tourism rates have increased rapidly—Malay-
sia received 23 million visitors last year—so it is likely that
tourism pressure on the highlands has increased concomi-
tantly. Unfortunately, mass tourism developments have led
to localized deforestation. Facilities such as casinos, hotels,
and Malaysia’s largest amusement park have sprung up in
the Genting Highlands (figure 2), while urban centers in the
Cameron Highlands and Fraser’s Hill have been expanding
to accommodate large numbers of visitors (figure 3d). Golf
courses in cloud forests have recently emerged as a new form
of recreational land use; turf-grass plantations for the Mesi-
lau Gold resort have replaced cloud forests below the Mesilau
entrance of Mount Kinabalu. The economic viability of such
golf courses in the highlands remains questionable. For
example, the Fraser’s Hill Golf and Country Resort caused
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Malaysia (not applicable to East Malaysia). This plan identi-
fied environmentally sensitive areas (including several cloud
forests) where development is forbidden above 1000 m
(except in special management areas) and on slopes with an
incline of more than 25°. However, the declaration of certain
cloud forests as inviolate may be considered unrealistic by
some because it will hamper the country’s economic progress.
Although it will be challenging to achieve sustainable use of
the nation’s cloud forests, we offer several strategies (table 2)
for the following sectors to mitigate threats to cloud forests.
Agriculture sector. Agroforestry may be one of the solutions
to achieve sustainable agriculture in cloud forests. The
integration of forest tree species into existing agricultural
lands and improved animal husbandry can maximize
economic returns with limited land resources. Agrofor-
estry has already been practiced in lowland forests and is
endorsed under Malaysia’s National Agricultural Policy
(MOA 1999), but it is not yet practiced sustainably in the
highlands. Perimeter planting of tall montane forest trees
and thick hedges in plantations might provide suitable
refugia for cloud forest species, and the presence of forest
patches might also facilitate their movement across human-
dominated agricultural landscapes (Vergara et al. 2010).
The maintenance of cloud forest biodiversity, in turn, may
be useful in ensuring the proper functioning and stability
of agroecosystems in montane areas. To prevent massive
soil erosion and runoff on steep slopes, land managers and
farmers must employ practices such as preserving old tree
stumps and root debris, using agricultural waste for mulch-
ing, contour planting, and high-density planting (Barrow
2006). Any government agroforestry program in montane
areas should also enhance farmers’ topographic knowledge,
provide economic incentives for planting soil-conserving
perennial crops, and strictly regulate the frequency and size
of forest clearance (Hashim and Abdul Rahaman 2006). At
the same time, greater effort should be made to regulate
the number of farm operators and their choice of crops so
as to avoid compromising the ecological integrity of mon-
tane landscapes in Malaysia. Ultimately, further research is
needed on integrated farming in cloud forests in order to
identify the best choice of montane forest species, appropri-
ate techniques of planting, and suitable farm designs.
Forestry sector. Although none of the world’s tropical forests
is sustainably managed (ITTO 2000), Malaysia’s emphasis
on sustainable forest management is an encouraging sign
for its cloud forests. Since 2005, Malaysia has adopted the
Malaysian Timber Certification Council’s scheme to ensure
that its management practices comply with International
Tropical Timber Organization standards. Under this scheme,
felling in areas within forest reserves at elevations greater
than or equal to 1000 m is prohibited (although this applies
only to states within Peninsular Malaysia). Apart from
enforcing these regulations at these elevations, state forestry
departments should continue to reinforce reduced-impact
large amounts of cloud forest loss, and the resulting siltation
ruined waterfalls popular among tourists—the venture
eventually collapsed because of low visitor numbers. The
ecological impacts of such projects are also significant; for
example, the species richness of montane forest-dependent
birds began to decline when more than 20% of the montane
forest canopy cover was cleared, and less than a third of these
species remained when more than 40% of the canopy cover
was lost (Soh et al. 2006).
Other potential threats. In Malaysia, global warming, bio-
logical invasions, and poaching also threaten cloud forest
biodiversity, and these factors may act synergistically with
habitat loss and disturbance (Sodhi et al. 2006). There is
considerable evidence that tropical montane biota is par-
ticularly vulnerable to global warming; elevational dis-
tributions of animals in Malaysia may have already been
altered by this phenomenon (e.g., Peh 2007). Although
long-term studies documenting the impact of global
warming in Malaysian cloud forests are scarce, Leong
(2006) recently showed an increase in annual mean tem-
peratures recorded from one meteorological station in the
Cameron Highlands (at a calibrated rate of 0.7° Celsius
per 100 years) from 1930 to 2003. Understanding the
cause of such warming, however, may be confounded by
urban development in the mountains (Chan et al. 2006).
Other threats such as biological invasions potentially can
cause local extinctions of native species and modify ecosys-
tems in Southeast Asia (Peh 2010). Fortunately, all known
invasive bird species found in the highlands appear confined
to town centers (Soh et al. 2006), suggesting a low threat to
forest ecosystems, for now. Moreover, threats such as poach-
ing for wildlife trade are probably greater in lowland forests
where accessibility is greater as a result of more developed
infrastructure.
Can cloud forests be managed sustainably
in Malaysia?
The potential threats described above include the destruc-
tion of geological features, changes to climate and rainfall
regimes, deterioration of water quality and quantity, soil
erosion and stream siltation, and the loss of forest cover and
biodiversity. Ultimately, economic development, tourism,
agriculture, water supply, and power generation all depend,
in part, on natural ecosystem services from cloud forests.
Are such uses sustainable? The concept of sustainability has
been defined as the ability for a resource to meet human
needs today and in the future (Fricker 1998); defined less
anthropocentrically, it means the ability to meet human
needs without compromising the health of ecosystems
(Callicott and Mumford 1997). Such sustainability goals will
require serious changes in politics, technology, and society
(Lee 2001). An example of the type of bold policy needed
is Malaysia’s National Physical Plan (DTCP 2006), which is
a statement of strategic policies on physical development
and conservation at state and federal levels in Peninsular
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allowed in sensitive cloud forest watershed lands. Lobbying
efforts by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) resulted
in the Malaysian government shelving a proposal to build
three roads through cloud forests, including a 200-kilometer
highlands resort road linking the Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s
Hill, and the Genting Highlands. If roads near cloud forests
must be constructed, relevant bioengineering erosion-control
techniques should be adopted (e.g., Leong and Chan 2006),
and extreme gradients should be avoided to prevent massive
soil depletion (MOW 1995). Researchers must evaluate the
effects of roads on montane animal movement and plant
dispersal, as well as potential fragmentation and edge effects.
Following road construction in cloud forests, stricter regula-
tions and monitoring are needed to prevent excessive timber
extraction and human settlement expansion. Reforestation of
native montane trees along roads can also increase soil stabil-
ity and facilitate animal movement.
Tourism sector. If tourism in cloud forests were managed
carefully, it could become one of the most lucrative and
environmentally friendly industries in Malaysia. Malay-
sian cloud forests are becoming increasingly attractive to
tourists; 48,604 climbers (54% of whom were foreigners)
scaled Mount Kinabalu in 2008, an increase over the two
previous years (Bernama 2009). The main tourist draws
of local cloud forests include bird and butterfly watching,
logging protocols in forests below 1000 m to minimize the
impacts of timber harvesting on cloud forest biodiversity.
In addition, researchers must enhance the ability to collect
and analyze Malaysian timber statistics in order to monitor
and regulate timber trade flow from different forest types,
including cloud forests. Such information, coupled with
market transparency and certification systems, is vital for
sustainable timber trade (ITTO 2000). Long-term monitor-
ing programs to analyze remotely sensed forest cover data
must also be augmented within the forestry sector; this will
allow state forest departments to better understand defores-
tation patterns under their jurisdictions and help them pri-
oritize vulnerable cloud forests for protection. For example,
cloud forests with high deforestation risk scores (e.g., Linkie
et al. 2004) should be gazetted as protected areas by state
forestry departments (e.g., Gunong Stong State Park was
gazetted by the Kelantan State Forest Department).
Infrastructure sector. The expanding tourism and timber
industries in Malaysia will eventually result in the construc-
tion of more roads through the cloud forests (Barrow 2006).
Roads are essential for a host of economic activities, but
they are a major threat to tropical biodiversity (Laurance et
al. 2009) and could potentially expose more remote cloud
forests to exploitation. To prevent illegal agriculture and
other types of land use, road construction should not be
Table 2. Strategies for different sectors to ensure sustainable use of cloud forests in Malaysia.
Sector Sustainability strategies
Agriculture Adhere to regulations that prohibit agricultural development above 1000 meters (m) and on slopes of more than 258
Practice sustainable agroforestry in existing highland farms
Preserve forest patches and vegetation along farm perimeters to provide refugia and connectivity for cloud forest biodiver sity
Adopt practices such as preservation of root stumps and contour planting to prevent soil erosion and runoff of steep slopes
Regulate the number of farm operators and choice of crops to maintain ecological integrity of cloud forests
Forestry Adhere to regulations that prohibit logging above 1000 m and on slopes of more than 258
Adopt reduced impact logging techniques in cloud forests below 1000 m
Increase capacity to collect and analyze timber statistics from different forest types that include cloud forests
Augment capacities to monitor deforestation patterns in order to identify and prioritize vulnerable cloud forests for protection
Infrastructure Restrict road access to ecologically sensitive areas where cloud forests predominate
Continue adopting bioengineering erosion control techniques relevant to road construction in montane areas
Plant native montane trees along roads
Do not construct roads in sensitive watersheds or on slopes of more than 258
Tourism Promote noninvasive recreational activities such as bird watching
Maximize the use of available land and prohibit further clearing of cloud forests
Practice alternate usage of cloud forest trails and regulate visitorship
Restrict access to ecologically sensitive areas
Involve local residents in cloud forest conservation projects
Tailor projects to community-specific socioeconomic and cultural contexts
Increase fiscal capacity to provide training for the local stakeholders and to finance cloud forest conser vation
Policy and law
enforcement
Resolve conflicting policies and land-use plans through improved dialogue between state and federal government agencies
Recognize cloud forests in special area plans as development-free zones
Expedite cabinet endorsement of National Highland Policy
Penalize development projects that do not undertake environmental impact assessments, erosion control plans, and sur veillance
when required
Tackle corruption by enforcing laws, strengthen whistle-blowing mechanisms and judicial institutions, and enhance public access
to information
36 BioScience • January 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 1 www.biosciencemag.org
Articles
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(a) providing feedback to the Malaysian Anti-corruption
Commission, (b) strengthening judicial institutions, (c)
enhancing public access to information, and (d) improving
social capital (Peh and Drori 2010).
Conclusion
Sustainable use of cloud forests in Malaysia is pos-
sible if our recommended sustainability strategies
(table 2) are carefully implemented by the respective
sectors. Simultaneously, the general public and stakehold-
ers (e.g., owners of timber companies, politicians, deci-
sionmakers from state and federal government agencies,
farmers, local communities, and tourists) need to develop
a greater conservation ethic for cloud forests, possibly
through participation in educational campaigns, seminars,
study visits, workshops, and exhibitions organized by the
government and NGOs. Multidisciplinary research (e.g.,
determining the total economic value of intact cloud for-
ests and their ecosystem services) should also be promoted
in cloud forests, which have contributed to only 3% of
biodiversity research in Malaysia (figure 1), but the results
must be regularly communicated to government agen-
cies to facilitate planning of more ecologically friendly
projects in this delicate and unique ecosystem. We stress
that the best way to protect cloud forests is using less and
preserving more. Still, sustainable use based on the greater
understanding of anthropogenic impacts on cloud forests
is vital. If our recommended strategies are implemented in
Malaysia, and if relevant aspects are adopted to improve
other national cloud forest conservation strategies, we
believe the future of cloud forests in Southeast Asia will
be less nebulous than the status quo.
Acknowledgments
This article benefited from discussions with researchers
and students at the Swedish Biodiversity Center. We thank
Jonathan Eyal, Lauren Coad, Ruth Swetnam, Neil Burgress,
Geoffrey Davison, Liew Thor-Seng, Sanath Kumaran, and
Wong Khoon Meng for their help and comments on
previous versions of this manuscript. We also thank Ch’ien
C. Lee for the photographs.
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... Among others, Kermavnar Concerning the study area, tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF) comprises only 1.4% of tropical forest worldwide (Scatena et al., 2010), which translates to approximately 2.7% of the total tropical forests area in Asia. About 23% of TMCF in Malaysia have been lost or degraded from its original span of 2.7 million ha (Peh et al., 2011). Despite being a small proportion of tropical forests, they are recognised as crucial components in watershed management and risk mitigation, as well as biodiversity and food security (Hostettler, 2002). ...
... An El Niño episode in 2015 ̶ 2016 reduced annual rainfall in GAEC by about 14.4% and 10.5% below the long-term average of annual rainfall, respectively. While, in CAKK, annual rainfall decreased by 27 There was also a 13.9 % reduction of rainfall recorded in GAEC in the year 2018. However, in CAKK the effects of El Niño were not apparent since the records showed only 2.7% reduction in annual rainfall in 2009 and 20.3% increase in rainfall in 2010 compared to the long-term average records. ...
Article
Full-text available
Generally, the tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF) has known to be the headwater for rivers which are the vital source of freshwater for the downstream user. Though one of the important information for freshwater management is the rainfall characteristics, for TMCF catchment it is still less explored in Sabah. This paper investigates the temporal pattern and variability of rainfall in Gunung Alab experimental catchment (GAEC) in the Crocker Range Park (CRP), Sabah, Malaysia. The analyses were based on rainfall observation data obtained in January 2006 to December 2018. As a comparison, similar analyses were also conducted to the rainfall observation data from a meteorological station in the west coast area of Sabah referred in this study as the coastal area of Kota Kinabalu (CAKK). The average annual rainfall for the 13 years data was 3527.1 mm and 2824.8 mm in GAEC and CAKK, respectively. The yearly average rain days in GAEC was 223 days and in CAKK was 157.1 days. Both stations received maximum monthly rainfall during the inter-monsoon season which generally occurred in April-May and September-October. In general, GAEC experienced low intensity of rains in long-duration whereas, CAKK experienced more extreme rainfall (average 2.4 ± 1.9 day yr-1) compared to GAEC (0.3 ± 0.9 days yr-1). Based on the set of rainfall data, total rainfall of 129.4 mm day-1 and 224.6 mm day-1 can be expected to be equal or exceeded once in 26 years at a probability of 3.85%, in GAEC and CAKK, respectively. In GAEC, one, two, five and ten years of recurrence interval, the expected maximum daily rainfall was estimated at 65.2 mm day-1 , 80.7 mm day-1 , 99.9 mm day-1 , and 114.1 mm day-1. Whereas, in CAKK, the one, two, five and ten years of recurrence interval of maximum rainfall can be expected at 77.2 mm day-1 , 136 mm day-1 , 168.5 mm day-1 and 196.7 mm day-1 , respectively. The El Niño episodes reduce 10.5 %-18 % and 2.7%-27.9% of annual rainfall from the long-term average in GAEC and CAKK. These findings give insight into the potential capacity of GAEC as headwater catchment and reflect the sensitivity of the local rainfall distribution influenced by natural phenomenon namely, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) within the observation period.
... Among others, Kermavnar Concerning the study area, tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF) comprises only 1.4% of tropical forest worldwide (Scatena et al., 2010), which translates to approximately 2.7% of the total tropical forests area in Asia. About 23% of TMCF in Malaysia have been lost or degraded from its original span of 2.7 million ha (Peh et al., 2011). Despite being a small proportion of tropical forests, they are recognised as crucial components in watershed management and risk mitigation, as well as biodiversity and food security (Hostettler, 2002). ...
... An El Niño episode in 2015 ̶ 2016 reduced annual rainfall in GAEC by about 14.4% and 10.5% below the long-term average of annual rainfall, respectively. While, in CAKK, annual rainfall decreased by 27 There was also a 13.9 % reduction of rainfall recorded in GAEC in the year 2018. However, in CAKK the effects of El Niño were not apparent since the records showed only 2.7% reduction in annual rainfall in 2009 and 20.3% increase in rainfall in 2010 compared to the long-term average records. ...
Article
Generally, the tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF) has known to be the headwater for rivers which are the vital source of freshwater for the downstream user. Though one of the important information for freshwater management is the rainfall characteristics, for TMCF catchment it is still less explored in Sabah. This paper investigates the temporal pattern and variability of rainfall in Gunung Alab experimental catchment (GAEC) in the Crocker Range Park (CRP), Sabah, Malaysia. The analyses were based on rainfall observation data obtained in January 2006 to December 2018. As a comparison, similar analyses were also conducted to the rainfall observation data from a meteorological station in the west coast area of Sabah referred in this study as the coastal area of Kota Kinabalu (CAKK). The average annual rainfall for the 13 years data was 3527.1 mm and 2824.8 mm in GAEC and CAKK, respectively. The yearly average rain days in GAEC was 223 days and in CAKK was 157.1 days. Both stations received maximum monthly rainfall during the inter-monsoon season which generally occurred in April-May and September-October. In general, GAEC experienced low intensity of rains in long-duration whereas, CAKK experienced more extreme rainfall (average 2.4 ± 1.9 day yr-1) compared to GAEC (0.3 ± 0.9 days yr-1). Based on the set of rainfall data, total rainfall of 129.4 mm day-1 and 224.6 mm day-1 can be expected to be equal or exceeded once in 26 years at a probability of 3.85%, in GAEC and CAKK, respectively. In GAEC, one, two, five and ten years of recurrence interval, the expected maximum daily rainfall was estimated at 65.2 mm day-1 , 80.7 mm day-1 , 99.9 mm day-1 , and 114.1 mm day-1. Whereas, in CAKK, the one, two, five and ten years of recurrence interval of maximum rainfall can be expected at 77.2 mm day-1 , 136 mm day-1 , 168.5 mm day-1 and 196.7 mm day-1 , respectively. The El Niño episodes reduce 10.5 %-18 % and 2.7%-27.9% of annual rainfall from the long-term average in GAEC and CAKK. These findings give insight into the potential capacity of GAEC as headwater catchment and reflect the sensitivity of the local rainfall distribution influenced by natural phenomenon namely, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) within the observation period.
... Rural tourism governance in Malaysia is fraught with challenges. The literature shows that weaknesses in the rural tourism governance framework have led to poor waste management (Rahman & Daud, 2011), poor sanitation (Chan & Baum, 2007), pollution (Nasher et al., 2013) and over-development (Peh et al., 2011). Further, there was very little consultation with or the participation of host communities in this segment (Daldeniz & Hampton, 2013;Jaafar & Maideen, 2012;Yacob et al., 2008;Yip et al., 2006). ...
... Rural tourist destinations are also under threat from non-tourism activities. For example, uncontrolled clearing of forest land for agriculture and illegal logging activities at Lojing Highlands in Kelantan have largely destroyed the touristic value of the locality (Peh et al., 2011). ...
Chapter
This chapter examines the rural tourism governance of Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve (Belum-Temengor) in Malaysia. Literature shows that institutional obstacles affect environmental sustainability and host community interests in rural tourist destinations. In particular, poor leadership, weak collaboration, low accountability and the lack of stakeholder engagement result in poor planning and management. In Belum-Temengor, these problems are compounded by its dual governance structure, which came to be when the Royal Belum State Park (Royal Belum) was declared and later accorded its own environmental management unit, namely, the Perak State Parks Corporation (PSPC). Consequently, conservation, tourist arrival controls and waste management are better in Royal Belum, compared to Temengor. Worse, significant tracts of Temengor forest have been excised for logging, with negative repercussion to the rural tourism segment there. Further, the governance structure fails to adequately protect host communities, especially the interests of the indigenous orang asli. The lack of community empowerment was evident, as very few locals benefit from rural tourism, and fewer orang asli are employees or entrepreneurs in this segment. In light of these weaknesses, eight constructs are proposed for a responsible rural tourism governance framework for Belum-Temengor, namely, lead institution, stakeholder engagement, power sharing, ecological modernization, accountability, communication, empowerment and fairness. The study contributes to rural tourism in Malaysia through the identification of suitable constructs to improve the prevailing rural tourism governance framework.
... For banded and Hose's civets, the percentage of evergreen forest in 2010 was much lower around the localities of historical records than recent records (particularly for the banded civet), which indicates that a large amount of suitable forested habitat has disappeared since the 1800s (Jennings et al., 2013). Lowland forest is particularly vulnerable and disappearing fast , and tropical montane cloud forests are also being destroyed at alarming rates (Peh et al., 2011). ...
Chapter
Southeast Asia supports 13 civet and 4 mongoose species that are poorly known and some are threatened with extinction. We investigated the ecology and distribution of several species, using radio‐telemetry, ecological niche modelling, and camera‐trapping. On Buton Island, Sulawesi, we obtained radio‐telemetry data from eight Malay civets, Viverra tangalunga . The mean home range size for both sexes was 70 ha, with a mean intrasexual overlap of 8% for males and 0% for females. In contrast, seven Malay civets radio‐tracked on Peninsular Malaysia had a mean home range size of 143 ha, but the intrasexual overlap was similar (15% for males and 0% for females); the home range of each male overlapped that of one or two females. At both study sites, Malay civets were mainly nocturnal, and all daytime rest sites were within dense ground cover. On Peninsular Malaysia, we also obtained radio‐telemetry data from five short‐tailed mongooses, Urva brachyura . The mean home range size of males (233 ha) was significantly larger than that of females (132 ha). Females had almost exclusive home ranges but male ranges overlapped that of more than one female. Short‐tailed mongooses were diurnal: mean activity during the day was 85%, compared to 6% at night. Our ecological niche modelling studies showed that the distributions of the large Indian civet, Viverra zibetha , and the crab‐eating mongoose, Urva urva , were similar throughout mainland Southeast Asia; they are both found over a broad elevation range, and occur primarily in evergreen forest. The large‐spotted civet, Viverra megaspila , occurs in lowland areas across northern Southeast Asia, and is most frequently found in deciduous forest. The Malay civet and the short‐tailed mongoose both occur south of the Thai–Malaysian border in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and are found primarily in lowland evergreen forest. The small Indian civet, Viverricula indica , and the Javan mongoose, Urva javanica , are both found on mainland Southeast Asia and parts of Indonesia; they mainly occur at lower elevations, and appear to have no preference for forest type. The collared mongoose, Urva semitorquata , is found mainly on Borneo and may occur more frequently at higher elevations and in disturbed evergreen forests. The banded civet, Hemigalus derbyanus , occurs principally in lowland evergreen forest in southern Myanmar/Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Mentawai Islands. Hose's civet, Diplogale hosei , is found in evergreen forest across the higher elevation regions of Borneo. On Sumatra, we set up camera‐traps in two oil palm plantations and analyzed the data using occupancy modelling. From 3164 camera‐trap days, we detected only three small carnivores: the leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis , the common palm civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus , and the Malay civet. The common palm civet had a high occupancy value and was found deep within the oil palm, whereas the Malay civet had low occupancy and detection probability values and was only detected near the edge. No covariate affected common palm civet occupancy, but the distance from the plantation edge did influence its detection probability. Malay civet occupancy was influenced by distance from the plantation edge and detection probability was affected by distance from the primary forest. Forest‐dependent civet and mongoose species may be threatened by forest loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Other threats include hunting and the wildlife trade.
... hectare (ha) of Permanent Forest Reserve. With an area of 1,060 ha, Gunung Siku Forest Reserve is classified as an Upper Hill Dipterocarp forest as well as a tropical montane cloud forest that act as water catchment area that supports habitat for endemic and rare flora species (Peh et al. 2011, Kumaran & Ainuddin 2006. The trees on the upper montane zone are largely confined to members of the Coniferae, Ericaceae and Myrtaceae families (Perumal & San 1998). ...
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This study focused on soil chemical and physical properties of Compartment 5 of Gunung Siku Forest Reserve, Cameron Highlands five years after reforestation due to illegal opening for crop cultivation. Results showed that soil pH is moderately acidic to neutral, moderately coarse textured with strong brown colour, and with optimal percentage of soil organic matter. The soil at Gunung Siku Forest Reserve is fertile and suitable to aid the plant growth of the species planted which are characterized by sufficient level of macronutrients as well as low amounts of trace metals.
... Genting Highland is perhaps the most disturbed cloud forest in the Malaysian mountains. The summit is covered by amusement parks, casinos, and hotels [19]. The highest peaks at Genting Highland reach 1,800 m a.s.l, ...
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Biodiversity research relies largely on knowledge about species responses to environmental gradients, assessed using some commonly applied sampling method. However, the consistency of detected responses using different sampling methods, and thus the generality of findings, has seldom been assessed in tropical ecosystems. Hence, we studied the response consistency and indicator functioning of beetle assemblages in altitudinal gradients from two mountains in Malaysia, using Malaise, light, and pitfall traps. The data were analyzed using generalized linear mixed-effects models (GLMM), non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS), multivariate regression trees (MRT), and indicator species analysis (IndVal). We collected 198 morpho-species of beetles representing 32 families, with a total number of 3,052 individual beetles. The richness measures generally declined with increasing altitude. The mountains differed little in terms of light and Malaise trap data but differed remarkably in pitfall-trap data. Only light traps (but not the other trap types) distinguished high from middle or low altitudes in terms of beetle richness and assemblage composition. The lower altitudes hosted about twice as many indicators as middle or high altitudes, and many species were trap-type specific in our data. These results suggest that the three sampling methods reflected the altitudinal gradient in different ways and the detection of community variation in the environment thus depends on the chosen sampling method. However, also the analytical approach appeared important, further underlining the need to use multiple methods in environmental assessments.
... Although it is recognized that the rate of regrowth following clearing in montane forests is slow compared to that of other forest types in the tropics (Ewel, 1980), basic information on the effects of land uses and underlying recovery processes is lacking. Because most studies of secondary succession and plant community dynamics in tropical forests were carried out in lowland areas, considerably fewer studies have been conducted in high-elevation regions of the tropics (Peh et al., 2011;Jakovac et al., 2021). Recovery in montane forests is affected by the type of disturbance agent and by variation in related factors, such as disturbance intensity and distance to old growth forests (Chazdon, 2003;Dent and Wright, 2009;Sodhi et al., 2010). ...
Article
Anthropogenic pressure in tropical montane forests is rapidly increasing, becoming a major threat to these complex ecosystems. Studies have shown that the wide variety of human activities in tropical uplands results in different ecological responses of secondary forests, but basic information on the disturbance impacts and underlying recovery processes is lacking. Here, we compared structural characteristics and tree community composition of old growth forest and secondary forests in a montane region of Sabah, Malaysia, which experienced five different anthropogenic disturbances. We also investigated the use of metrics from spectral trajectories of a Landsat time series (LTS) change detection algorithm (LandTrendr) to identify characteristics of disturbance events and their linkage to the recovery of tree community composition, with field validation. Five LTS metrics—time since the greatest disturbance (TSD), magnitude of disturbance (MD), distance to undisturbed forests (d_UND), recovery indicator (RI), and years to recovery (Y2R) were derived and were related to field-based tree community composition. Our analysis revealed a gradient of recovery patterns in community composition and structural attributes among forest disturbance types, suggesting the importance of community composition as an indicator of forest recovery. Among derived LTS metrics, TSD, MD, d_UND, and Y2R 100% were significantly related with the similarity in community composition. Our results suggest that spectral trajectories from LTS can serve as a useful predictor of community composition change in recovering stands. This approach provides an efficient means for developing systematic conservation strategies for high-elevation regions in the tropics, where human-modified landscapes are expanding.
... When considering the roles of Malaysian cloud forests and looming threats to them, it is vital to improve current cloud forest protection in Malaysia 17,18 . Malaysian cloud forests are fragile forest ecosystem facing increasing threats in the form of anthropogenic disturbances and global warming [19][20][21] , which can be the driving force for the loss of these pristine habitats and their endemic fauna and flora 21 . ...
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This study was conducted to assess the spatial distribution of beetles in mountain ecosystems and their elevational diversity. Malaise, pitfall and light traps were used to collect beetles from nine different mountains in Malaysia from September 2014 to September 2016, where from Gunung Angsi, Gunung Belumut, Gunung Basor and Gunung Tebu samples were collected at 500 m and 1000 m (above sea level) elevations, while beetles were sampled at 500 m, 1000 m and 1500 masl from Gunung Benom, Gunung Inas, Cameron Highland, Gunung Besar Hantu and Gunung Basor. In this study, 9628 beetles belonging to 879 different species were collected with highest representation from family Staphylinidae and Carabidae. Chamah Highland had the highest beetle diversity followed by Gunung Benom, Gunung Inas, Cameron Highland, Gunung Belumut, and Gunung Basor. Chamah Highland was different to all mountains on abundance and species richness. The highest species richness was observed at 1000 m, followed by 500 m and 1500 m. We identified characteristic species associated with habitat conditions at Gunung Benoum and Gunung Inas mountains, according to INDVAL values. The beetle diversity of the sampled mountains showed multiple alpha and beta patterns according to type of mountain ecosystem and elevation, providing guidelines for the scientific community to underpin conservation efforts in Malaysia.
... Montane forest cover in Southeast Asia has been relatively less affected compared to the lowlands (Soh et al., 2019), and therefore species wintering in montane forests have been presumed to face lower risk. Yet, montane forests are also under increasing pressure (Peh et al., 2011;Zeng et al., 2018). In northeast India and Bangladesh, deforestation on mountains is driven by illegal logging and clearing for tea plantations and other fast-growing plantation species, exacerbated by ongoing shifting cultivation (Rasul, 2007;Lele and Joshi, 2009); in upland parts of Southeast Asia, expansion of vegetable farms is known to drive deforestation (Poudel et al., 1998). ...
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With nearly 400 migratory landbird species, the East Asian Flyway is the most diverse of the world’s flyways. This diversity is a consequence of the varied ecological niches provided by biomes ranging from broadleaf forests to arctic tundra and accentuated by complex biogeographic processes. The distribution and migration ecology of East Asian landbirds is still inadequately known, but a recent explosion in the number of studies tracking the migration of raptors, cuckoos, kingfishers and passerines has greatly increased our knowledge about the stopover and wintering ecology of many species, and the migratory routes that link northeast Eurasia and the Asian tropics. Yet the East Asian Flyway also supports the highest number of threatened species among flyways. Strong declines have been detected in buntings (Emberizidae) and other long-distance migrants. While the conservation of migratory landbirds in this region has largely focused on unsustainable hunting, there are other threats, such as habitat loss and increased agro-chemical use driven directly by land cover change and climate-related processes. Important knowledge gaps to be addressed include (1) threats affecting species in different parts of their annual cycle, (2) range-wide population trends, (3) ecological requirements and habitat use during the non-breeding season, and (4) the conservation status of critical wintering sites (including understudied farming landscapes, such as rice fields) and migration bottlenecks along the flyway.
... Tourism is an important source of economic income for our country. As one of the favourite tropical destinations, Malaysia attracted many nature lovers to enjoy our tropical rainforest sceneries and experiencing outdoor activities such as bird watching, hiking and trail-walking (Wells, 1982;Oppermann, 1992;Peh et al., 2011). Fraser's Hill is one of the attraction for foreign and local tourists. ...
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Taking 1500 m elevation as the approximate lower limit of upper montane cloud forest occurrence in Malaysia, 0.72% of the total land area of the country may be considered to be potentially covered by tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF). Delineation of TMCF is not easy due to the interplay of climatic and topographic features (including the “mass-elevation” effect). Some studies have shown that the lifting condensation level (cloud base) occurs around 1200 m.a.s.l. in Peninsular Malaysia, at c. 1800–2000 m on large mountains like Mt. Kinabalu (Borneo), and as low as c. 700 m on small, outlying coastal mountains (e.g. Gunung Silam, Sabah). Published information on the biodiversity of TMCF in Malaysia is scattered. Important tree families in montane forests include Ericaceae, Myrtaceae, Coniferae, Fagaceae, and Lauraceae, which are often blanketed with epiphytes, ferns, bryophytes, and liverworts. About 3000–4000 vascular plant species are found in the montane forests of Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo. There is a distinct montane community amongst most classes of vertebrates and some invertebrates, but the fauna of TCMF is mostly a small sub-set of the overall montane fauna. About 18 mammal species in Borneo and 10 in Peninsular Malaysia are strictly montane but none are truly restricted to cloud forests. Bird diversity is well studied but limited information is available on the number of species that are cloud forest specialists. Patchy records are available for butterflies, moths, mollusks, and herpetofauna. Studies on the capture of cloud water in Malaysian cloud forests are rare. […]
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Although soil resources are widely considered as a major factor that reduces the productivity, stature, and diversity of tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF), systematic comparisons of soil resources within and between TMCF are lacking. This study combines published reports on TMCF soils with new data on the soils and forest structure of the Luquillo Mountains in Puerto Rico to assess the current state of knowledge regarding global and local-scale variation in TMCF soils. At the global scale, soils from 33 TMCF sites and over 150 pedons are reviewed. Compared to soils in humid lowland tropical forests, TMCF soils are relatively acidic, have higher organic matter content, and are relatively high in total nitrogen and extractable phosphorus. Across all sites, significant correlations also exist between mean annual precipitation and soil pH and base saturation, but not between any soil chemical factor and canopy height, site elevation, or air temperature. Although comparisons between TMCF are limited by inconsistent sampling protocols, analysis of available data does indicates that lower montane cloud forests (LMCF) have taller canopies, higher soil pH, lower soil nitrogen, and higher C/N ratios than upper montane cloud forests (UMCF). Within an UMCF in NE Puerto Rico, the abundance of soil nitrogen, carbon, and potassium accounted for 25% to 54% of the variation in canopy height. However, as much as 68% of the variation in stand height could be accounted for when site exposure, slope gradient, and the percent coverage of surface roots were also included in the analysis. […]
Book
This is a popular account to raise awareness of the unique biodiversity and hydrological values of tropical montane cloud forests, a highly threatened ecosystem. The booklet was published as part of the IHP-Humid Tropics Programme Series no. 13
Chapter
Stadtmüller (1987) defined the cloud forest of the humid tropics as those forests that frequently are covered with cloud or mist in the aseasonal humid tropics. He considered “cloud forest” as synonymous with “montane rain forest.” He also discussed the validity of various terminologies that are used to describe tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF).
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Surface soil horizons were slightly acidic, had a high Mg/Ca quotient and substantial concentrations of Ni. Deeper horizons had much higher Mg/Ca quotients and sometimes very high Ni concentrations. On soils ≥790m mor humus had developed. Despite the unusual soil chemistry, forests at lower altitude had a large stature and resembled lowland evergreen rain forest on other substrata. All forests were rich in tree species, ranging from 19 species in a 0.04ha plot at 870m to 104 species in a 0.4ha plot at 480m. There was a dramatic change in species composition between 610m where Dipterocarpaceae were abundant and 770m where they did not occur. Forest ≥770m was stunted and the mountain shows a classic "Massenerhebung effect' (compression of forest zones on a small mountain compared with a large one). Causes of the stunted forests at higher altitude remain unexplained but do not seem to include soil toxicity. Only 2 tree species, Borneodendron anaegmaticum (Euphorbiaceae) and Buchaniana arborescens (Anacardiaceae), are apparently endemic to ultrabasic substrata. -from Authors