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Trip to Kuala Balai peat swamp forest

May 8, 2009

In my post on peat swamps forest in Brunei last year, I mentioned on the importance of such forests in mitigating climate change as they are huge carbon stores, just like a sponge absorbing water; and in their natural state actively accumulate carbon from the atmosphere.

Yesterday, I got a chance to see for myself on the peat swamp forest located in Kuala Balai in a remote part of Belait; the western part of Brunei. I haven’t been to Ulu Belait for donkey years; the last was when I was with the RTB crew, filming Sungai Ingei for a Tv programme. Sungai Ingei is much further than the one I went to yesterday. 

Anyway, back to the peatlands, I was interested when Dr Davies, an expert on peatlands and who also led the trip briefed us on the importance of peat swamps and the rich biodiversity the forest holds. Along the way, he showed us the strange protruding roots of the red meranti trees, a tree stump, a river canal with its dark brown colour and even pointed out a sole of a shoe. See the pictures below.

Crossing a small canal using skinny logs can be challenging. Notice the colour of the water, its dark brown, a natural element in a peat swamp forest.

Crossing a small canal using skinny logs can be challenging. Notice the colour of the water, its dark brown, a natural element in a peat swamp forest.

 

This tall tree is Shorea Albida also known by its trade name as red meranti, usually made for furnitures. The Badas peat swamp next to Kuala Balai has its canopy composing entirely of such trees.

This tall tree is Shorea Albida also known by its trade name as red meranti, usually made for furnitures. The Badas peat swamp next to Kuala Balai has its canopy composing entirely of such trees.

 

The sky is ... somewhere up there. At least I can see light shining through. The forest has a rich biodiversity. If one of the elements is gone, the ecology will be damaged.

The sky is ... somewhere up there. At least I can see light shining through. The forest has a rich biodiversity. If one of the elements is gone, the ecology will be damaged.

A typical parasite plant, the fern attaching itself to the red meranti tree. I love nature. Masya Allah.

A typical parasite plant, the fern attaching itself to the red meranti tree. I love nature. Masya Allah.

I dont think this one is a parasite nor part of the biodiversity. A close look reveals a ... sole of a shoe. Someone was at the forest before us and definetely left his/ her print behind. Look like a UK size 7 to me. Anyone?

I dont think this one is a parasite nor part of the biodiversity. A close look reveals a ... sole of a shoe. Someone was at the forest before us and definetely left his/ her print behind. Look like a UK size 7 to me. Anyone?

 

Dr Davies showing one of the red meranti's roots. "This is normal," he said. Trees in peat swamps have their roots emerging above the soil, just like those in mangrove swamps. Aahh...I see. Allahu Akbar.

Dr Davies showing one of the red meranti's roots. "This is normal," he said. Trees in peat swamps have their roots emerging above the soil, just like those in mangrove swamps. Aahh...I see. Allahu Akbar.

One of the Indonesian wetlands specialists shows how water can easily be obtained in a peat swamp forest; this one is just about 20cm from the soil. He said he never usually brings water when he is in such forest and the water is safe to drink (albeit its colour). Just make sure there is no logging or human activities as then the water may be polluted, he warns.

One of the Indonesian wetlands specialists shows how water can easily be obtained in a peat swamp forest; this one is just about 20cm from the soil. He said he never usually brings water when he is in such forest and the water is safe to drink (albeit its colour). Just make sure there is no logging or human activities around as then the water may be polluted, he warns.

The RTB crew has interest in stumps. This tree stump may have been caused by lightning said Dr Davies.

The RTB crew has interest in stumps. The tree may have been strike by lightning said Dr Davies.

Wet and soaky, natural elements of a peat swamp. Peat swamp forests are like a sponge, holding almost 90% water. They are very fragile, once they are drained example, for logging, the peat starts to decompose and release the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, lose their carbon-accumulating and flood-control functions, and so much biodiversity is lost. Kuala Balai is part of Brunei's forest reserve areas.

Wet and soaky, natural elements of a peat swamp. Peat swamp forests are like a sponge, holding almost 90% water. They are very fragile, once they are drained example, for logging, the peat starts to decompose and release the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, lose their carbon-accumulating and flood-control functions, and so much biodiversity is lost. Kuala Balai is part of Brunei's forest reserve areas.

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