Located in the tropics and with a very long coastline, Malaysia has an extensive area of wetlands. The Malaysian Wetland Directory lists 105 wetland sites. Mangroves and mudflats, river systems and tropical peat swamp forests constitute the main wetlands ecosystems found in Malaysia.
The following are examples of important wetlands in Malaysia:
- Mangroves and mudflats: Tanjung Piai, Pulau Kukup, Sungai Pulai, Matang, Kuala Gula, Kuala Selangor, Klang Islands (Pulau Ketam), Klias Peninsula, Bako National Park
- Peat swamp forests: North and South Selangor Peat Swamp Forest, Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve Johor, South-east Pahang Peat Swamp Forest, Klias Peninsula and Loagan Bunut
- Lakes: Tasek Bera and Tasek Chini
- Rivers: Sungai Pahang, Sungai Perak, Sungai Sedili Kecil and Sedili Besar, Sungai Setiu, Sungai Kinabatangan and Sungai Rejang
- Lagoons: Setiu Lagoon and Merang Lagoon
Threatened wetlands that deserve our attention
Malaysia’s wetlands continue to be under threat. Pollution, land use conversion and land reclamation are threats that affect all wetland ecosystems. Wetlands International Malaysia lists the following as areas of concern:
Malaysia’s mangroves have declined over 45% from an estimated 1.1 million hectares to the current estimate of 564,970 hectares. Though the government has established a national committee to oversee research and replanting efforts, remaining mangroves continue to be threatened through illegal encroachment and drainage.
With the onset of climate change and increase in sea levels, we need to ensure that our coastlines are resilient. An estimated 29% of our country’s 4,000km coastline has been classified as facing serious erosion. For example, Tanjung Piai, the southern most point of Asia's mainland and one of Malaysia’s Ramsar sites, is suffering from severe erosion of up to 9 meters per year.
Peat swamp forests
While deforestation in non-peatland areas has declined, deforestation of tropical peatlands has increased over the last 20 years. In 2005, 25% of all deforestation in Southeast Asia was on peatlands. Land use conversion and drainage of these valuable carbon stocks have led to fires on peatlands and large emissions of greenhouse gasses.