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Forest Loss and Degradation in Malaysian Borneo and Brunei

A recent study found that more than 80% of tropical forests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging.


A research team from the University of Tasmania, University of Papua New Guinea, and the Carnegie Institution for Science documented the full extent of logging in this region using CLASlite. CLASlite’s high-resolution satellite imaging uncovered logging roads in Brunei and in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

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Figure: Forest cover and condition in Malaysian Boreno and Brunei in 2009

 

Analysis of satellite imagery collected from 1990 and 2009 over Malaysian Borneo showed approximately 226,000 miles (364,000 km) of roads constructed throughout the forests of this region. Nearly 80% of the land surface of Sabah and Sarawak was impacted by previously unreported, high-impact logging or clearing operations. This finding contrasted strongly with neighboring Brunei, where 54% of the land area maintained intact unlogged forest.
 
Team leader Jane Bryan said: “There is a crisis in tropical forest ecosystems worldwide, and our work documents the extent of the crisis on Malaysian Borneo. Only small areas of intact forest remain in Malaysian Borneo, because so much has been heavily logged or cleared for timber or oil palm production. Rainforests that previously contained lots of big old trees, which store carbon and support a diverse ecosystem, are being replaced with oil palm or timber plantations, or hollowed out by logging.”

Only 8% and 3% of land area in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively, was covered by intact forests in designated protected areas. Very few forest ecosystems remain intact in Sabah or Sarawak. But Brunei has largely excluded industrial logging from its borders and has been comparatively successful in protecting its forests.
 
Co-author of the study Phil Shearman said: “The extent of logging in Sabah and Sarawak documented in our work is breathtaking. The logging industry has penetrated right into the heart of Borneo and very little rainforest remains untouched by logging or clearfell in Malaysian Borneo. Brunei provides a stunning contrast. Most of Brunei’s forests are still intact, as a result of largely excluding the logging industry from its borders. The situation in these tropical forests is now so severe that any further sacrifice of intact ecosystems to the logging industry should be off the table.”


For more information, see Bryan, J.E., et al. (2013) on the CLASlite Community Publications page. 

 

For an interactive video about the study, click here.