Introduction & Objectives
The LTER study in Sarawak was initiated as a result of a Workshop in Bangkok in March 1989 to discuss "Funding priorities for research towards effective sustainable management of biodiversity resources in tropical Asia" which was by Dr. Lee Hua Seng, then the Assistant Director of Research. The purpose of the Workshop was to define funding priorities for policy-oriented research on two vulnerable biomes endemic to tropical Asia which are outstanding in their biodiversity, the tropical rain forests and the coral reefs (Yamakura et al. 19951). Particular attention was given during the workshop to funding priorities in fields of research which related to the need for biological inventory and identification of areas for conservation; the need to better understand how plant and animal populations are regulated in nature, particularly in species rich ecosystems in order that they may be reliably managed for conservation and sustainable utilization; and the need to determine how species populations and the ecosystems in which they occur, can be valued in terms of the totality of goods and services which they offer (Ashton, 19882). During the Workshop the Lambir Hills National Park was offered as a site for a large scale Forest Dynamics Plot, not only because of its accessibility, but also because it is a center of great tree species diversity. A decision was reached during the Workshop to include the Lambir Hills National Park as a site for the global network of large-scale 50-hectare Forest Dynamics Plot.
A research scheme entitled "Ecological survey of natural forest areas and logged-over forests" had earlier been proposed by Lee (1981)3, the objective of which is to identify ecosystems within undisturbed forest areas and logged-over forests on similar soil types to provide a basis for comparison of biological productivity and ecological changes with the artificial ecosystems. It was the intention of the Forest Department to carry out the project proposed above in the early and mid-eighties, but implementation was constrained by staff shortage. So when a proposal was received to initiate the long term forest ecological research in Sarawak, it was decided to dove-tail the earlier proposal into the scheme of the LTER Project. The project seeks to clarify how tree species richness is maintained in the tropical forests.
It was felt necessary (Ashton, 1995)4 to establish such large size plots to analyze the spatial interactions between individuals and population samples of species over time. Such large size plots would provide the means to examine the demography of the majority of species which are those occurring in low population densities. The original reason for choosing 50 hectares was to ensure that at least half the species, even the rare but widespread species within the plot are represented by samples large enough for demographic analysis. The rationale for such large plots had been further summarized by Ashton (1995). Besides demographic analysis, large plots permit the precise mapping of individuals in species populations in relation to habitat changes. They also permit analysis of the various optimum plot sizes for different objectives, including reliable estimates of standing volume and of growth. Most importantly, they permit predictive computer models of forest growth and response to manipulation, to be constructed which are based on spatially explicit information concerning individual trees.
Objectives Of The LTER Plot
The LTER Plot has been established to conduct baseline vegetation studies of the natural forests to increase the understanding of ecosystem functions and more particularly to improve existing management technique for erodable, low-nutrient sandy soils. It is the third such large size Forest Dynamics Plot to be established in the tropical forests, earlier ones having been established in Panama, Central America in the Barro Colorado Island (BCI) and the Pasoh Forest Reserve in the State of Negeri Sembilan, Peninsular Malaysia. The Lambir plot has been established using the same methods that have previously developed in the earlier locations.
The specific objectives of the LTER plot at Lambir are as follows :-
- To monitor tree populations over time, especially the dynamics of regeneration of key species;
- To analyze the interaction among species, and especially their relationship to varying soil types;
- To provide control observations for silvicultural studies that will be proposed on the basis of the first results; and
- To establish a foundation of botanical knowledge that can be used by wildlife biologists, socio-economists and park managers.
1Yamakura, T. Yamada, I., Inoue, T. & Ogino, K. (1995) A long-term and large-scale research of the Lambir rainforest in Sarawak : progress and conceptual background of Japanese activities. Tropics 4 (2/3) : 41-56
2Ashton, P.S. (1988) Letter of invitation to participants of the Workshop on "Funding priorities for research towards effective management of biologically diverse indigenous tropical ecosystems for sustainable harvesting and conservation". Dated 24 October 1988 from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.
3Lee, H.S. (1981) The ecological effects of shifting cultivation on tropical forest ecosystems and their significance on reforestation and rehabilitation efforts in Sarawak. Forest Research Report No. S.R. 22 Forest Department Sarawak Malaysia.
4Ashton, P.S. (1995) What can be learned from a 50 hectare plot which cannot be learned any other way? In Lee, H.S., Ashton, P.S. & Ogino, K. (eds.) Long Term Ecological Research of Tropical Rain Forest in Sarawak. Proceedings of the Workshop on "Long Term Ecological Research in relation to Forest Ecosystem Management" Kuching Sarawak Malaysia 25-27 July 1994. Reports of a New Program for Promotion of Basic Sciences. Studies of Global Environmental Change with Special Reference to Asia and Pacific Regions, Vol. II-3, Ehime University March 1995.