The Badas Tree Planting 2021 project is a collaborative research project initiated by the Institute for Biodiversity Research (IBER) at UBD and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). The project is supported by the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) and Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd (BSP).
Focussing on the Badas peat swamp forest in the Belait District, the Badas Tree Planting 2021 project goes beyond tree planting in its research-focused approach, complemented by the involvement of the public as volunteers. Throughout the one-year research programme, volunteers will participate as citizen scientists to assist SMART-UBD researchers in the project. In support of Strategy 2 of Brunei Darussalam’s National Climate Change Policy on Forest Cover, 200 saplings of the native tree species, Shorea albida, were planted in the degraded peat swamp forest along Jalan Badas. The Badas peat dome, the largest in Brunei, is increasingly affected by disturbances, particularly by forest fires, causing an urgent need to raise public awareness and to protect this area.
The Badas Tree Planting 2021 Project is the culmination of over six years of work by the UBD-SMART research team, led by Dr. Alex Cobb and Ms. Suhailah Isnin from SMART, and Assoc Prof. Dr. Rahayu Sukri and Dr Faizah Hj Metali from UBD. Starting with the collection of Shorea albida seeds during a rare mast fruiting event in Ulu Mendaram, the research team had engaged Wetlands International (Brunei) and collaborators from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) for input on establishing a rehabilitation programme focused on investigating the factors that determine the growth and survival of this iconic species at Badas. S. albida is a high conservation value species, being endemic to Bornean peat swamp forests and is currently classified as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Brunei’s peat swamp forests hold the last strongholds of S. albida, as populations elsewhere in Borneo have been extensively logged and this valuable tree species does not reproduce regularly.
The launching ceremony for the Badas Tree Planting 2021 was held on Thursday, 25th February 2021, at Badas Peat Swamp Forest, Jalan Badas, Belait District. The launch was officiated by Yang Mulia Puan Noralinda Haji Ibrahim, Acting Director of Forestry at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism. In attendance at the event were Dr Abby Tan Chee Hong, Assistant Vice Chancellor (Research) at UBD, Hj Osmera Hj Otman, Head of HSE and Security, BSP and Hj Mohd Jaafar Hj Awang Bakar, Corporate Manager, BSP, and the Brunei Darussalam Climate Change Secretariat.
The Badas Tree Planting 2021 project is complemented by other scientific studies currently being conducted in the Badas area by the UBD-SMART research team on biodiversity, hydrology, geology and the Badas peat dome’s forest recovery. Taken together, these projects increase the visibility of the Badas area to the international scientific community and helps to establish Brunei Darussalam as a centre for tropical peat swamp forest research, with IBER, UBD as a key player in tropical peat swamp and biodiversity research.
Text by: AP Dr Rahayu Sukri, Dr Salwana Jaafar (UBD) & Ms. Suhailah Isnin (SMART)