Into the forest, update on the Brunei project

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To protect and restore wetland areas of high biodiversity value in the lower Belait district we are working together with Brunei Shell Petroleum to develop a Biodiversity Action Plan. For this we are doing an inventory of what plants and animals are living in the area. We are now in the middle of the second round of biodiversity surveys, focused on peat swamp and estuarine fishes, mammals, vegetation, reptiles and amphibians, birds, dragonflies and bats.

Biodiversity

The last few weeks we have had some spectacular sightings, both of rare species and of large numbers of animals. The going is hard in peat areas; while doing the surveys our experts and their assistants regularly get stuck, wet, stung and dirty, but overall the work has been rewarding. The project area for instance appears to be a very good spot to see rare birds that you can only find in peat areas, like Grey-breasted Babbler and Hook-billed Bulbul and to see the Bornean Bristlehead, a difficult to find Bornean endemic.

There are also surveys that have to be done at night, like the surveys for reptiles and amphibians and the surveys for bats. These surveys start at dusk and sometimes last until around midnight! With help of strong torches it’s possible to see a whole different range of animals, than you see during the daylight hours, like the Bornean Angle-headed Lizard below. (photo by Ivonne Meuche)

Another great discovery during the start of one of these night time surveys, was that there were thousands of Large Flying Foxes flying over part of the project area (photo by Dave Bakewell). And this didn’t just happen one night, but it has been going on for a few weeks. At dusk the flying foxes fly from their roosting sites to feed on the flowers of a tree common in the peat swamps in the project area, it’s a spectacular sight.

Hydrology

As part of the project, we’re also in the midst of studying the water table levels and subsidence rate associated with drainage canals on the Badas peat dome. Deltares, an independent institute for applied research in the field of hydrology, carries out this component with the help of volunteers from BLNG and BSP. Deltares has installed measuring points at strategic locations within the Badas peat dome where the volunteers will be monitoring the water level and subsidence rate of the area over the course of a year. The first results from their study have recorded over 9 meters of peat, which indicates that the peat layer of the Badas dome may, in some places, be more than ten meters thick!

                    
Volunteers digging a dip-well and the going is though for the experts and assistants
(Photos by Jeffery Ang Meng Ann)

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