The Sedili wetlands represent a rare and unique wetland type in South East Asia; the freshwater swamp forest. A freshwater swamp forest is one of the most endangered wetland types in South East Asia since much of it has been converted to other land uses.
The extent of freshwater swamp forest in and around Sedili Kecil and Sedili Besar has reduced agriculture and village settlements. What is remaining in both these areas, are the riverine habitats and some small pockets of freshwater swamp forests. This is the only intact area of freshwater swamp forest within the Panti Forest Reserve of an area of approximately 300ha in Sungai Sedili Besar. The riverine vegetation is in a good condition with distinct gradation vegetation zones in both Sungai Sedili Besar and Sungai Sedili Kecil (i.e. mangrove belt – nypa belt – Barringtonia conoidea belt – pandanus belt to freshwater tidal belt.
This gradation of vegetation types along the river’s of Sungai Sedili Besar and Kecil are extremely rare now in South East Asia. Therefore the project area must be conserved and protected to reduce further losses of this unique type of wetland habitat. Both Sungai Sedili Besar and Sedili Kecil Rivers and its associated wetlands qualify to be protected under the Ramsar Convention since it fulfils 62.5% of the criteria to be listed as a Wetlands of International Importance.
The floral and general biodiversity of the Sedili swamps is high. 49 Bird species, 7 species of mammals, 21 species of fish, 4 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians were recorded at the project sites.
A total of 42 and 34 true mangrove and mangrove-associated species were recorded, respectively at Sungai Sedili Besar and Sedili Kecil areas.
There are 16 dominant species of freshwater swamp forest trees at the site, which makes it very interesting from the point of the gradation from true mangroves into different freshwater vegetation belts.
It is probable that such a distinct gradation of riverine vegetation in freshwater ecosystems exists nowhere else in Malaysia. Both Sungai Sedili Besar and Sungai Sedili Kecil have ecotourism potential, as the boat rides along the river are extremely pleasant and have both aesthetic and recreational values. The Sedili swamps are very important areas for bird watching, recreational fishing and wetland interpretation.
Moreover, the rivers and their associated floodplains are probably very important as flood water storage areas, especially the Sedili Kecil basin. Any drainage of the swamp areas and consequent loss of this capacity may result in increased danger of flooding in downstream areas. The Sedili wetlands are an important refuge for wild life and have high conservation and biodiversity values.
In conclusion both Sedili Besar and Sedili Kecil Wetlands should be designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and managed as 2 separate sites under Johor State Parks Corporation. As an integrated approach to management of both the sites it is important to include ecological dimension as well as the human and social dimensions. Local communities depend on and use the resources from the wetlands and they are an important element in the management and decision making process with regard to the resource use. The two river basins of Sedili Kecil and Besar sustain inshore fisheries for local communities whilst providing supplementary income through recreation activities such as boat rides, home stay opportunities and angling facilities.