Trees in Borneo among world's most productive in recycling carbon

Trees in Borneo among world's most productive in recycling carbon
An aerial file photo of lush tropical forests in the Central Kalimantan province in Indonesia's Borneo island.

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei - Researchers are studying the ability of forests in the Sultanate to uptake carbon, with fresh data indicating that trees in Borneo are amongst the world's most productive in recycling carbon.

Dr Lan Qie from Leeds University who delivered a talk at the Faculty of Science at Universiti Brunei Darussalam yesterday, said that tropical forests were by far the most dominant in terms of biomass - a measure of organic matter - in comparison to ecosystems around the globe.

A study examining the differences in wood production above ground level, published in the Journal of Ecology earlier this May indentified that trees are taller per diameter in Southeast Asia compared with South America, allowing greater uptake of carbon.

The study which examined data from 26 hectares of forest and 12,000 trees monitored for more than 20 years calculated the amount of biomass gained in the woody parts of a tree, which can be estimated from repeated measures of tree diameter and estimates of wood density and tree height.

"From data being collected on the tropics in Africa and South America, the data suggests that the most mature forests are absorbing an increasing amount of carbon as they are still growing," she said.

"In such regions there is a net carbon sink - meaning the area absorbs more carbon than it emits. My project here (Southeast Asia) is to similarly test and monitor the biomass, specifically Borneo since it is the largest island in the Sundanic biogeographical subregion."

There is no existing data in the region examining the carbon sink effect she added, with 50 long term plots in Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Kalimantan indentified for a systematic recensus.

At the Kuala Belalong Field Study Centre, Dr Lan is studying four one hectare plots, nine quarter hectare plots.

"Brunei's rich heritage at the field study centre is perfect for the study as a lot of the long term plots have data going back to the early 1990s," she said, adding that she hopes to proceed doing more research in East Kalimantan and Sabah in the near future.

With carbon emissions increasing globally, the atmosphere, land and water on earth are affected; acidification takes place across the ocean.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation 2012 and 2014 saw the largest increase carbon dioxide emissions in the past 30 years.

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