Site Nomination for Peat Site Profiles in Southeast Asia
Protected Area
Name of Site: Klias Peat Swamp Forest
Country: Malaysia
GPS Point: Latitude: 5°19'38.74 Longitude: 115°40'33.63
Location & Access: The FR is located in the Beaufort District. The main access is from the Kota Kinabalu – Beaufort highway. It is situated about 10 km southwest of Beaufort town in the Klias Peninsula. The FR is accessible from the surrounding alienated lands which have been cleared for agriculture and settlement. The southwestern portion can be accessed by boat from Weston town.
Total Area: 3620.00 hectare(s)
Background of Site: Klias Peat Swamp Field Centre, a site project office, technical office/ rest house and a jetty were built in 2002. Funds were provided under the 8th Malaysia Plan to support the Klias Peat Swamp Forest Project, a UNDP/GEF and DANIDA funded project.

Settlement and adjacent land-use – The FR is surrounded by more than 20 villages. Most of the land is on peat and the main land use is for agriculture, although a large area remains unproductive. The swamps were cleared of vegetation and canals were used to drain water to the larger rivers. Crops like pineapple and oil palm are cultivated.

Almost the whole FR is on peat swamp with a very flat terrain. A small portion is in the mangrove.

Significant Value of Site:
- Biodiversity

Prior to its gazettement as Class I Protection forest in 1984, it was a Class II Commercial Forest Reserve. Despite having been logged in the past for the valuable species (e.g. Dactylocladus stenostachys, Gonystylus bancanus, and Dryobalanops rappa), the forest within the FR is generally intact and capable of regenerating naturally.

The vegetation of the FR is mixed peat swamp forest (PSF). It is very similar to the Binsuluk FR in terms of species composition, i.e. both areas are typified by the dominance of D. rappa, D. stenostachys, S. platycarpa, and G. bancanus. Kapur paya (D. rappa) appears to be one of the most dominant constituents of the upper canopy. However, it cannot be certain whether its current social status reflects the original structure of the forest. This is because past logging operations may have removed only commercial species, like ramin and jongkong, during a time when kapur paya was either not highly marketable or difficult to transport (i.e. the kapur logs sink in water). In the drier areas, the presence of Shorea smithiana (seraya timbau) was noted.

The mixed PSF is characterized by the dominant association of several species, namely Dryobalanops rappa (kapur paya), Shorea platycarpa (seraya paya), Dactylocladus stenostachys (jongkong), and Gonystylus bancanus (ramin). Together, these species usually make up about 60-70 % of the standing basal area. Other common species include Calophyllum havilandii (bintangor), Madhuca motleyana (nyatoh ketiau), and Stemonurus scorpioides (katok).

Forest structure and floristic composition are not uniform within the mixed PSF. They may vary depending on peat depth and distance from dryland. Canopy height decreases and becomes more open in response to the increase in peat depth. Pandanus (Pandanaceae) and sedges (Cyperaceae) are common ground cover and form impenetrable thickets where conditions are more open, thus allowing more light to reach the ground.

Going into greater detail, the mixed PSF of the Klias FR could be further stratified into 3 categories according to crown size and density The cursory nature of the field assessment does not allow for the detection of any differences in floristic composition between these strata. The dominant species association, however, seems somewhat similar.

Faunal surveys were carried out by the Klias Peat Swamp Forest Project, a UNDP/GEF and DANIDA funded project but information is not available.

A bird survey was carried out by Drs. F. Sheldon and Robert Moyle with the assistance of staff from the Sabah Museum and Sabah Wildlife Department. The study was carried out in primary peat swamp forest, bad secondary peat swamp forest and scrub vegetation dominated by relatively thick melastomes and scrub. In 6 days of netting, 291 individual birds were captured, representing 55 species. About 46% of the total (143 individuals) was netted in the melastome scrub. However, the variety was low with 17 species captured and 36 species recorded. Of those captured here, about 60% was the Yellow-vented bulbul.

The primary peat swamp forest had the highest diversity of birds and also the lowest number of individuals netted (28 species and 76 individuals respectively).
Designated use (status/legal classification):
- International recognition (e.g RAMSAR| Man & Biosphere Reserve (MBR) etc.)|Permanent Forest Reserve

Class I Protection Forest Reserve (FR)
Major Issues: Fire – Fire is a significant threat to the conservation of the peat swamp forest in Klias FR and the surrounding areas. It is expected to remain a serious threat as long as preventive measures are not taken. Forest clearing and burning for cultivation in surrounding areas during extended drought periods is likely to be the major cause of fires. About 7% of the FR was affected by fire in March 1998. Fire also destroyed parts of Nabahan FR and a large part of the Binsuluk FR. It is difficult to predict how the burnt areas will recover.

Drainage – Trees growing in peat swamps are sensitive to changes in the mean water table level. Therefore, drainage of water from peat swamps may have damaging effects on the ecology and hydrology of peat swamp forests. Drainage causes the water table level to drop. This could ultimately result in changes to the floristic composition of the forest, with plants that are more suited to the drier conditions succeeding those of the original wetter conditions. The drier conditions also lend themselves to greater fire risks.

Drainage is usually the result of canals being dug to drain water from adjacent land for agricultural development or for transportation of logs by floating them along the extraction canals. A network of canals is found just outside the northern boundary of the Klias FR. This would likely have affected the overall mean water table level of the peat swamp basin. How significant this change may be would be a subject of further investigation. The consequent impact of this change on the quality of the peat swamp forest, namely the forest within the Klias FR, is difficult to predict, and would require long term research and observation. But one can expect a negative influence on the ecosystem integrity of the peat swamp forest. If the canals are close-ended, e.g. they do not drain out to a river then the negative effects may be mitigated.

Peat subsidence – Another serious consequence of excessive drainage is peat subsidence. Peat is being the very medium that supports the existence of peat swamp forests. Land-uses that involve the extensive drainage of peat soils cause peat to wash away or subside and oxidise, until ultimately the peat deposit is completely depleted. Once depleted, the sub-soil of peat areas will be exposed. The underlying sub-soils are usually sandy podsolic soils or acidic sulphate clays, both types seriously nutrient-deficient and not likely to support agriculture.
Site Jurisdiction & Administration: Management responsibility – Beaufort District Forestry Office, Sabah Forestry Department
Peatland Type: Lowland
Management activities: a) Past
Creation – The FR was first proposed to be gazetted in 1958. The proposal was later withdrawn in 1/1/1960. It was later gazetted as forest reserve in 1973 and, at some point, was classified as a Class II Commercial FR. It was regazetted as a Class I FR in 14/3/1984.

Boundary matters – The FR boundary was demarcated in 2002.

b) Current

c) Potential

Facilities & Activities Available on Site:
Institution Responsible for the Site:
Name of Organization: Sabah Forestry Department
Postal Address: Headquarters,
Forestry Department,
KM10, Labuk Road,
90000 Sandakan, Sabah Malaysia.
Phone: +6089-660811
Fax: +6089-669170
Nominated by:
Name: Khairul Azwan Mohamad
Organization: GEC