Kuala Keniam : Living Laboratory for Biodiversity

The UiTM-PERHILITAN Research Station located in Kuala Keniam, Taman Negara, Pahang was set up in April 2007. Taman Negara Pahang covers an area of 4,343 km².

Taman Negara was created as National Park in 1938/1939 as a result of recommendations made by the Wildlife Commission in 1932. Initially, it was named the King George V National Park to commemorate the silver jubilee of the monarch.

The primary focus of research station is to provide a great natural laboratory to conduct scientific investigations of the tropical rain forest species, habitats and ecosystem processes and interactions between them within the Taman Negara landscape, and on ways of managing them.  Emphasis is placed on a multi-disciplinary research program focusing on biological, socio-economic and conservation aspects of biodiversity that support the national policy, and the strong likelihood of results appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Initial research has been funded entirely through the top-down of Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) of the Ministry of Higher Education. UiTM, teamed with DWNP in a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together with three main objectives. Firstly, to carry out joint programmes of scientific research, conservation, management of biological resources, secondly, to strengthen the capacity of the DWNP in terms of training, attachment and networking and to provide the necessary framework to develop expertise in the research, conservation and management of biological resources, and finally to provide consultancy related to research, conservation and management of biological resources.

The weather in Taman Negara is characterized by permanent high temperature ranging from 20oC at night and 35oC in the day time, high humidity (above 80%). Periods of sunshine in the morning are usually followed by heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon, sometimes accompanied by severe gusts of wind. There is a period of rainfall from December to February; as a result, large tracts of the rainforest are flooded. The highest rainfall occurs in October to November with about 312 mm of rain falls. The lowers rainfall occurs in March with only about 50 mm.

Sedimentary rocks account for about 83% of Taman Negara. The last formation of sedimentary rocks belongs to the Cretaceous-Jurassic era which exists in Keniam. The rocks are thick cross-bedded sandstone deposits with subordinate conglomerates and shale/mudstones. Sungai Tahan and Sungai Teku are the headstream tributaries of Sungai Tahan system. They originate from Gunung Tahan and flow down from sloped valley of dense upper hill forest to the much gentler slopes covered by Lowland Dipterocarp Forests. The upstream tributaries can be classified as highland type stream with the presence of Gapis (Saraca multiflora) trees along river banks. Sungai Keniam is one of major rivers flowing into Tembeling River. Other major rivers include Sungai Atok, Sungai Trenggan, Sungai Sat and Sungai Spia. These tributaries can be grouped under lowland type streams with Keruing neram (Diptercarpus oblongifolius) presence along the riparian habitat.

The forest of Kuala Keniam is characterized by a lowland Dipterocarp forest. The great richness of this tropical rain forest is illustrated by a hectare plot that contains more than 280 tree species, while the Shannon Index of diversity ranges from 1.9 to 2.5.  The rainforest consists of tall evergreen trees that attain heights up to 50 m. It is typically very damp and rich in herbaceous, shrubs, epiphytes, lianas and tree species from the family of Dipterocarpaceae. Perah (Elateriospermum tapos) is common and frequently occur in Kuala Keniam and its vicinity. Other trees include Tualang (Koompassia malaccensis), Penarahan (Knema patentinervia), Sebasah (Aporosa prainiana) Balik angin (Macaranga lowii), and Kempas (Koompassia malaccensis). Keruing neram (Dipterocarpus oblongifolius), Merbau (Intsia palembanica), Melembu (Pterocambium javanicaum) and common tree and frequently occur in riparian habitats. Wild fruit trees presence in the area include Rambai hutan (Beccaurea minor), Durian tupai (Durio griffithii), Rambutan hutan (Nephelium cuspidatum), Putat (Barringtonia microstachya) and Tampoi (Baccaurea reticulata). The understory trees and shrub community consist of the family Rubiaceae, Myrtaceae and Euphorbiaceae with Rennelia sp., Syzygium sp., Mallotus sp.being the common genera. Common tree crown epiphytes include bird nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and stag horn fern (Platycerium coronarium).

Abundant food plants, a variety of habitat types and major drainage systems provide all necessary living requirements for wildlife. Other than found in Keniam, elephants (Elephas maximus) heads are also distributed in Ulu Atok, Jenut Kumbang and Trenggan. Other mammals found in Keniam are tapir (Tapirus indicus), sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), wild boars (Sus scrofa), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) and mouse deer (Tragulus sp.). The forest habitat in Keniam contains about over 20 species of birds which include olive-winged bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus), little spider hunter (Arachnothera longirostra) and pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica). There are also many fish species found in Sungai Keniam. Sebarau (Hampala maerdepidota), sia (Mystacholeucus marginatus), Kawan (Labiobarbus sp.) and Kelah (Tor tombroides) are most wildely distributed species.

Physical facilities in Kuala Keniam are designed to accommodate programs of research, education and services. Currently available faculties include boats, chalets, bathrooms, toilets, prayer room and base camp which can accommodate 50 – 70 people at a particular time. The natural forest and arboretum in Kuala Keniam is used for teaching purpose in the field of forestry, park and recreation management, sport sciences, wood science, interpretation and wildlife management. There are many transect lines and field plots established for research activities in forest survey, forest ecology, dendrology, and silviculture.

Researcher : Prof. Dr Mohd. Nazip Suratman


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