Press Release: New Public Resource to Assist Limestone Conservation Efforts in Malaysia

Limestone outcrops in Kedah, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 2 September 2021 – Researchers have just released a publicly accessible online resource that contains the most comprehensive information on Malaysia’s limestone hills to date. Containing detailed maps, photos, and data in the form of 7 separate eBooks, the resource is titled ‘Conservation of Limestone Ecosystems of Malaysia’.

Limestone hills harbour unique biodiversity and provide numerous ecosystem services to humans, but face intensifying disturbances from forest loss, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development. In the National Policy of Biological Diversity 2016-2025, the protection and restoration of limestone ecosystems are listed as one of the 17 national biodiversity targets.

In order to find out which limestone hills warrant urgent protection, a team of researchers felt the need to create a public database that includes information on their location, biodiversity, surrounding land use and extent of habitat disturbance.

With the help of satellite images, drone technology and ground verification, researchers have now accurately mapped 1393 limestone hills in Malaysia, with 911 located in Peninsular Malaysia, and 482 in Malaysian Borneo.

“After two years of analysis, compiling information, and travelling more than 22,000 km, I think we now have an almost complete picture of how Malaysia’s limestone hills are doing.” said Foon Junn Kitt, Project Coordinator of Rimba’s Project Limestone, who led the intensive field surveys.

Funded by the National Conservation Trust Fund via Universiti Malaysia Sabah, this new resource can now assist state governments, scientists and conservationists in identifying biologically important limestone hills for protection and rehabilitation.

“Rather than viewing our database as static and complete, it should be regarded as an evolving platform for users to collect, store, update and analyse spatial and biological data from limestone hills to better inform decisions regarding their management”, said lead researcher, Associate Professor Liew Thor-Seng from Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Principal Investigator of Project Limestone.

As limestone is an invaluable resource for the cement and construction industry, it is not possible to completely halt the quarrying of limestone hills.

“For the first time, we have a land-use planning tool that can not only help state governments and scientists identify which limestone hills should be urgently protected to prevent further species extinctions, but also reduce the number of hills that need to be sacrificed for development through better planning”, said co-researcher, Professor Gopalasamy Reuben Clements from Sunway University and co-researcher of Project Limestone.

An online gazetteer for limestone outcrops in Malaysia can be used to locate limestone outcrops of interest.

Malaysia has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030, relative to the emissions intensity of GDP in 2005. As such, we cannot afford to lose any more natural carbon sinks such as limestone hills.

The researchers hope that this tool will be widely used to better manage limestone hills in Malaysia. Ultimately, better management of unique and vulnerable ecosystems is vital to help reduce biodiversity loss and tackle the global climate crisis. Each eBook can be downloaded separately at the following link: bit.ly/LimestoneMsia

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Contact person for further information:

Associate Professor Dr Liew Thor-Seng

Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah

Email: thorseng@ums.edu.my

Phone: +012-823 6504

The full press kit can be downloaded here: bit.ly/LimestoneMalaysia

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